Goshawks thrive in urban Berlin with over 100 breeding pairs.


We are delighted to begin the New Year on a positive note telling the story of the success of one raptor, the goshawk, normally an elusive bird associated with Europe’s forests, but currently breeding in the heart of the city of  Berlin. Today seventy years after the end of the Second World War, Berlin’s goshawks are s common sight flying among the high rise buildings, nesting in the cities public parks and in Berlin’s numerous cemeteries located in the west and south of the city. In Berlin’s Tiegarten Park,  roughly the size of London’s Regents Park , there are 3 occupied goshawk territories.  This heart warming story published here is illustrated by images and videos captured by Sam Hobson and Terry Pickford, two of our regular contributors. Significantly Germany has nominated the goshawk as the bird of the year for 2015.


The streets of Berlin were choked with rubble — and Red Army soldiers — after the city’s almost total destruction and occupation in the spring of 1945. 

It will surprise most of our readers to learn there are currently over 100 resident pairs of goshawks now breeding and reasonably safe in this huge city metropolis . The hawks success has been brought about by an almost complete lack of human persecution inside the city and acceptance by the people of Berlin. In some parts of  the city, goshawk density have now reached 10-13 breeding pairs per 100 square km, the highest density anywhere in their global range. In other parts of  Germany the goshawk has also settled in Hamburg, Kiel, Cologne and Dresden as well as in many other cities. In a number of other European cities such as Amsterdam, Kiev, Moscow and Riga the goshawk has also taken up residence and continues to breed unmolested.

Sadly according to a spokesperson from NABU, (Nature & Biodiversity Conservation Union), the goshawk remains Germany’s most persecuted birds of prey in the rural regions throughout the country. Even inside Berlin where they sometimes attempt to breed in people’s back yards close to pigeon fanciers or poultry breeders, nests do not last very long.

The goshawk national population is estimated in the new German Breeding Bird Atlas ADEBAR to be 11,500 to 16,500 breeding pairs. Thus, about seven to eight percent of the total European and roughly twenty percent of the EU population are resident inside Germany. Above all, the Northwest German lowlands and the uplands are densely populated. Distribution gaps are found in very sparsely wooded areas, for example, near Magdeburg or on the North Sea coast. On average, about six breeding pairs are recorded  within 100 square kilometers in Germany.


Female Goshawk feeding her brood of 4 chicks.

Goshawk Images by Sam Hobson captured in Berlin










About Sam Hobson

Sam Hobson is a wildlife photographer with a passion for showcasing the wildlife that lives alongside us in towns and cities. His photography has been awarded amongst other accolades in this year’s 50th anniversary Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards.

He says “I couldn’t really believe it when I first heard that the goshawk – possibly the UK’s most elusive bird of prey, was living in the heart of Germany’s capital city. I visited Berlin many times over a two-year period and made it my mission to document the lives of these magnificent urban raptors.”

See more great photographs by Sam Hobson or follow him on Twitter orFacebook.

The full feature is available in the current issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine, January 2015, in shops now http://www.discoverwildlife.com/magazine/current-issue.


10 comments to Goshawks thrive in urban Berlin with over 100 breeding pairs.

  • nirofo

    It’s more than significant that there’s no driven Red Grouse shooting in Germany !!!

    HAPPY NEW YEAR to you all.

    Editor’s Comment. Nirofo, you are 100% correct, but in the centre of Berlin there are no gamekeepers either. The information tells its own story, what a country we live in.

  • fred koning

    My compliments for the nice website.
    In a sanddune area 20 km west of Amsterdam in Holland I study 34 square km (of which 600 ha of forest ) we find 8 to 13 nests annually. Hunting is not allowed in the area and robbing of nests by humans unknown resulting in good breeding resilts.Food mainly pigeons. corvids and 30 % rabbits. Happy New Year, Fred Koning

    Editor’s Comment. Hi Fred, A Happy New Year to you also. Much appreciate your comment. One question, would you be willing to submit a short article about your goshawks? We would love to publish it, especially any images you may be able to provide. Best Wishes Editor.

  • Falcoscot

    The late Frank Beebe,a famous falconer, who I had the fortune of visiting on Vancouver Island, wrote that he always preferred to fly Goshawks that came from above the 60 parallel because they were a lot less nervous as a result of not suffering from major persecution. Humans teach animals/birds to be nervous of them.
    I was once told of a pair of Goshawks in Germany that used to nest on an island in the middle of a boating lake which was floodlit at night. Releasing game for sport is not allowed in many EU countries, Germany being one of them.
    Happy New Year !

  • Trapit

    At least the rural population of Germany can give British gamekeepers a run for their money persecuting Goshawks.I am not sure about a ban on releasing,but Pheasant shooting is very popular there,so I suppose there will always be conflict. It’s a good population in Berlin all considered,saw one there myself once.However as stated in the article a higher degree of forest cover is necessary for the densest breeding to occur.I once had four nests in two square kilometres on my pheasant beat ,thankfully one failed but I still had a total of fifteen gos round my main release area.Not to mention two more pairs elsewhere on my ground. Happy days .

  • Trapit

    Just correcting an error in my previous comment,if anyone is still interested in this post . The four Goshawk nests were actually in an area of 0.85 kilometres sq . Which just shows how predatory birds can increase , to the possible detriment of those who give them protection .

  • Walter Brown

    Germany is the land of my birth. I remember how hard it was to see Habichts. Habichts nest only in the most remote mountains where I live now – Colorado, USA. North American goshawks are some of the most beautiful of raptors. I hope
    They become as adaptable as the euro gos.

    Editor’s Comment. Walter thank you for taking the trouble to send in your comment, it was much appreciated. Do many other friends of yours in Colorado follow us at (@RaptorPolitcs) on twitter, or on FaceBook? We need many more followers if you can help raise our profile in the USA?

  • Walter Brown

    I’m not a Facebook or twitter user but do know of several who are familiar w/your site. I’m still not sure by reading your
    Folk’s comments whether you’re a pro, or anti falconry, but to be sure, I am a falconer w/a NA goshawk who is a conservationist of all wildlife. I release all game caught, just like I do trout when fly fishing. Too, I only now fly birds that
    I release back into the wild after several seasons of hunting. I feel that the birds earn their freedom and now no longer
    Keep raptors many years……

    Editor’s Comment Walter, many of our followers are falconers and look after their birds they fly very well. We have no issue with falconry. Many falconers we are in touch with, for example in Poland and the Czech Republic, are also involved in raptor conservation in their own countries. We trust that answers your question. Please feel free at any time to send in your views and comments. We would also ask if you come across a good raptor article, for example about persecution or conservation, please use the ‘Contact Us’ form to send the Editor the details. We often publish such articles from America.

  • Kirsten Downer

    Hi there, I’m really interested to know why, in your opinion, goshawks have not yet managed to colonise any British city. If they can live in Amsterdam, Kiev, Hamburg, why not British cities? Is it a case of gamekeepers exterminating them before they get there? And in that case could we bypass this by re-introducing goshawks to certain british cities that could support a population?

    Look forward to hearing your thoughts.

    Editor’s Comment. Hi Kirsten, a very interesting question. There are a number of reasons in our opinion why the goshawk has so far not managed to colonise any British cities, the main one being a lack of suitable tree habitat. Another reason is human disturbance, any pairs would be subjected to interference by the public. In Berlin where we have some experience the goshawks have taken up residence in old graveyards which in the main are quite extensive and have a large food base. We also know that the public in general in Berlin have little or no interest in these birds leaving nesting pairs to their own devices. Persecution there is very rare indeed, also the Berlin goshawks are regularly observed flying above the city over the heads of shoppers without cause for concern. The Berlin population perhaps because of a lack of human interference have become accustomed to people. Importantly in Berlin there are no gamekeepers.

  • we in the uk have many more buzzards than germany and other birds of prey

  • Trapit

    Went to a talk by Conor Jameson last week .Amazing photos of gos in Berlin,including researchers setting traps baited with white doves,in a public park,with mothers and children passing by within ten yards.Nobody took any notice,and the trap caught within minutes.