Female Goshawk (in real time & slow motion) hunting ducks and waders along Bowland river.

Published on Jan 6, 2017

The goshawk has never been a common species within Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland for one main reason, persecution. In the mid 1990’s although goshawks were regularly observed throughout a number of seasons above the forest canopy undertaking their aerial courtship display at three separate forest locations, these pairs were rarely successful. On one memorable spring day two separate pairs were seen displaying at the same time above the Gisburn forest north of Stocks reservoir. As expected both pairs mysteriously disappeared and were not seen again that season. Because all three display areas are surrounded by keepered moorland it is highly likely human interference was the main cause of breeding failures.

The first goshawk ground nesting site containing 4 eggs was located by three members of the North West Raptor Group on the 4th April 1995 in the heather on moorland owned by United Utilities. When the territory was revisited one week later the remains of the eggs were found smashed in the nest and both adult hawks had disappeared. This disappointing discovery was no surprise as the area was regularly patrolled by old school gamekeepers. Several days later when members of the NWRG were walking amongst the trees of a nearby conifer plantation the remains of a recently constructed goshawk nest containing fresh feathers and down were discovered on the ground. It appeared the nest structure had been pushed out of the tree prior to any eggs being laid. It was thought most likely the nesting goshawks had moved onto the nearby moor where they had hastily constructed a makeshift nest on the ground amongst the heather into which the female had then laid her four eggs.

Last year on the boundary of the Forest of Bowland an adult female goshawk was observed regularly by Terry Pickford predating ducks on a river using an unusual hunting technique. The bird was seen several times flying low down the river one foot above the water catching an unsuspecting duck just as it was taking flight.


Goshawk Image: Courtesy Sam Hobson

Terry thinking this may be a good opportunity to capture the hawk on video asked a cameraman friend to join him on the river bank where he had constructed a portable hide.

After three consecutive days and many hours of patient waiting inside the hide the cameraman was able to capture the attached video, shown in real time and also in slow motion.

Watch this powerful goshawk approaching from upstream seen as a small white dot for several seconds before rising up in-front of the camera and veering away to the right.

We advise watching the first part of the video several times to get your eye in on the small white dot coming towards the camera from the right just feet above the river.

The power of the hawks wings beats are truly incredible. Look at the barring on both the wings and tail as this magnificent raptor flies by. The goshawks white head and underbelly are clearly visible.

This was no fluke and quite possibly the only footage of this sort, showing this majestic and extremely rare raptor hunting in the wild.

4 comments to Female Goshawk (in real time & slow motion) hunting ducks and waders along Bowland river.

  • Alan arblaaster

    Superb clip well worth the wait!!

  • Trapit

    Brief but brilliant.

  • Trapit

    I remember a Goshawks nest in Cheshire in the 1980s,when first found it contained two fresh eggs.
    Visiting the site a week later the eggs were gone.I continued searching through the wood,hoping to find something else of interest.

    After a couple of hundred yards I was astonished to discover the hen Goshawk sat on a completely fresh nest.This new structure was hardly bigger than a good woodpigeons nest.It was very strange to see the head and breast of the incubating bird visible over one side of the nest,and the long tail over the other. When I climbed to the nest the eggs proved to be those of a duck.

    It was my opinion that the eggs from the original nest had been taken either by a collector or falconer,shortly after my first visit,while the hawk was still laying her clutch. She then deserted and hurriedly built a replacement,
    Possibly in as little as twenty four hours. I still wonder why the thief did not “dummy” this nest,but heartlessly left her sitting the second nest knowing it would prevent a repeat clutch.

    With this in mind I removed the duck eggs and hid behind an upturned tree root. It was the best part of an hour before the sitting bird returned,and it was quite upsetting to witness her behaviour on finding an empty nest.
    Later visits did not reveal a repeat laying.

  • Mike Coleman

    Hi,Nice clip !
    This is a hunting strategy that is regularly used by Goshawk but for obvious reasons, rarely filmed.Trained Gos learn this method rapidly & will take ducks that otherwise will outpace them in level flight.It is a variation of the strategy that wild Gos use on forest rides. I have observed wild Gos flying inches above the grass for long distances down these rides hoping to take pigeons & other prey that would also outpace them over distance.I have seen wild Gos pass within yards of me while I’ve been concealed on the edge of the ride which is a real priviledge when they remain unaware of the human presence. Trained Gos also soon learn to use the strategy of flying inches above stubble to take wood pigeons seen hundreds of yards away.
    The pigeon will be taken as it tries a vertical takeoff but sometimes just too late!
    I’ve only once seen a wild Gos take a feral pigeon in level flight without forcing the bird into cover before taking it.Also only once I’ve seen a wild Gos knock down a wood pigeon high up from a stoop in Peregrine style.Generally they take feral pigeons by forcing them into tree before taking them. I have been lucky enough to observe this method successfully used only 4 times in 45 years of watching wild Gos hunting throughout Europe but all such successes were over UK forests!
    I suspect that wild Gos also use the low flight technique over stubble but have never witnessed it !
    I have been lucky enough to observe wild Gos take crows in cut silage fields using this method also.
    The ultimate stealth hunter!