The Brown Goshawk (Accipiter fasciatus) is one of Australia’s most acrobatic aerial hunters. They are within the Accipiter genus of raptors (birds of prey) that is the global Goshawk genus. Ever Accipiter is known to utilise cover and perches to catch their prey unaware. The Brown Goshawk in particular is known to weave through dense forest and capture and kill unsuspecting birds before they can move a wing!
However, on rare occasions the hunt go wrong, and something unexpected happens. In these rare instances, a Goshawk can either make the decision to commit to the hunt, or pull out to conserve energy. In this short article I will describe one of these instances: A Brown Goshawk in a long distance aerial pursuit on an Australian Raven (Corvus coronoides).
I was on Broughton Island, which is not far from Newcastle on the east coast of Australia, where I observed lots of commotion in the bird world. Seagulls squawked and took flight in a large white undulating mass, while I saw two ravens joining the mass. The ravens seemed particularly frantic compared to the seagulls. And that’s when I spotted a fast dark shadow tailing them that darted from the other side of the bay…
“Initially the Goshawk pursued the Raven in a westerly direction, at first observing the Raven from behind, then gathering speed and making contact with it in what appeared to be a beak-first attack. The Raven changed angle after the first observed attack, and proceeded to dive. The Goshawk appeared easily faster than the Raven in diving flight, and again made aggressive contact using its beak.” From Beranek (2017)
The Raven once again changed direction, this time angling north-west and slightly upwards. The Goshawk circled to adjust its position and once again pursued the Raven, this time coming from below. The Goshawk attempted to attack the Raven but missed. The Raven appeared to flap its wings frantically as the Goshawk approached. After this attack, the Goshawk let the Raven gain a lead before closing the distance for another attack. At this stage, the interaction was proceeding further out in the bay and it was impossible to obtain distinct images with a camera. Further observations were made with binoculars. On the sixth and final attack, as the Goshawk approached the Raven, the former outstretched its talons and grasped the Raven in mid air. The Raven did not appear to be struggling to break free and looked limp; presumably it was either dead or exhausted.” From Beranek (2017)
These kinds of long distance aerial and acrobatic pursuits are rare in nature for Goshawks, and represent less than 3% of hunting observations. A variety of factors can lead to such behaviour, such as prey availability and the condition of habitat. To read more into the science side of these kinds of hunts visit either one the links below:
Chad T. Beranek (2017) A successful long-distance aerial pursuit of an Australian Raven Corvus coronoides by a Brown Goshawk Accipiter fasciatus. Australian Field Ornithology 34, 87-90.