Nesting Ecology of the Northern Goshawk in the Black Hills of South Dakota

Scientific Disciplines
Biological Sciences - Terrestrial
nesting territories
nestIng habItat
bird nest
northern goshawk
South Dakota Dept Game Fish Parks
FaunaWest Wildlife Consultants
Craig J. Knowles
south dakota
nesting ecology
nesting trees
Volume 16, No. 4

Nesting ecology of the northern goshawk in the black 
hills of south dakota

Craig J. Knowles,* and Pamela R. Knowles, FaunaWest Wildlife Consultants, Townsend, Montana 
Doug Backlund, South Dakota Dept. of Game, Fish and Parks, Pierre, South Dakota 57501 
The nesting ecology of northern goshawks (Accipiter gentilis) was studied in the Black 
Hills of western South Dakota from 2003 to 2009. Goshawk nest territories were found by 

broadcasting alarm calls, intensive searches of potential nesting habitat, and visiting historic 
nesting territories based on information from the USDA Forest Service.  During this 7- yr 
period, 30 active goshawk nesting territories were studied. There were 53 nesting attempts 
sufficiently monitored to establish that 35 nests fledged young (66% successful). Among these 
monitored nests, there was an average of 1.1 chicks fledged/nesting attempt and 1.6 chicks 
fledged/successful nest. Goshawks frequently used alternative nests from one year to the next, 
and we were not always successful at finding new alternative nests. Alternative nests ranged 
from 50 yds to 0.7 mi apart.  The average number of alternative nests found per nesting 
territory was 2.2, and in 1 territory there were six nests. Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa
was the preferred nest tree with 65 goshawk nests in pine trees and one nest found in a white 
spruce tree (Abies glauca).  The average diameter (dbh) of nest trees was 16.8 in dbh. Nest 
stand characteristics were measured at 21 nest tree sites. Average nest stand dbh was 10.2 in, 
average nest stand tree density was 266 trees/ac, and the average nest stand basal area was 
128 ft2/ac.