Crested Goshawk

Crested Goshawk (accipiter trivirgatus)

Description and Distribution

The crested goshawk is a hawk of the family Accipitridae. It is built for moving through the hilly forests it calls home, with short wings and a long tail. In spite of its name, the crest of the crested goshawk is actually not very pronounced, especially in juveniles. It has brownish-grey upperparts, a streaked breast and a barred belly, as you can see from the photo above.

Crested goshawks are not migratory, living in their local lowland forests for the duration of their lives. They are found in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, southern China, and Southeast Asia. Hong Kong lies at the edge of its range, and it is also considered a protected species in the territory. There is evidence that the species has adapted to certain urban environments, occasionally occupying large parks in cities like Singapore and Shanghai.

Ecology and Behavior.

Crested goshawk soaring over Po Toi Island, March 2020.

As a forest dwelling bird of prey in Hong Kong, the crested goshawk may be considered an apex predator, hunting other birds, small mammals, and reptiles in lowland forests. It uses the element of surprise to silently swoop in on unsuspecting prey from various perches where it lies in waiting.

Additionally, and rather interestingly, it is known to be the only host of a certain species of louse, degeeriella storeri, which is unknown on any other species.

Evolutionary History

The crested goshawk is actually something of an anomaly in terms of its phylogeny and evolutionary history. For one thing, it is the only member of the accipiter clade (which includes hawks, eagles, buzzards, harries, kites, and Old World vultures) with a crest, leading some experts to believe that it should not even be placed in the clade, but should rather be renamed to reflect that it is actually a (or perhaps the only) representative of a sister clade that diverged from other Accipiter lineages. As it currently stands, the crested goshawk represents the earliest divergence from other Accipiter lineages as early as 15 million years ago, making it a rather ancient and unique creature.