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African Goshawk - BirdForum Opus

Photo by Alan Manson
Skukuza, Kruger National Park, South Africa, September 2007
Accipiter tachiro

Includes Red-chested Goshawk


The male (38 cm, 200 g) is smaller than the female (46 cm, 350 g)
The upperparts of the male are slate and the underparts are white, finely barred rufous. The male's tail is indistinctly barred, and has two white spots on the upper side.
The female has dark brown upperparts and the underparts are barred brown (less finely barred than the male).
In both sexes the cere, eyes and legs are yellow; the underwing is barred, and the underwing coverts are of a similar colour to that of the barring on the breast.

Immature birds: The underparts have brown blotches, there is a dark streak down the centre of the throat, and the eyebrow is white.


Most of Sub-Saharan Africa: from Senegal in the West and Eritrea in the East to South Africa in the South.



Complex. At least nine taxa have been described, including:

Photo by CollinBax
Durbanville, Cape Town, South Africa, June 2008

Some recent authorities (Kemp & Kemp 1998, Borrow & Demey 2001, 2004, Ferguson-Lees & Christie 2001, Allan 2005) regard all these taxa as constituting a single species. Others (Kemp 1994, Clark & Davies 2000, Sinclair & Ryan 2003) regard the latter four taxa as a separate species, Red-chested Goshawk Accipiter toussenelli. Louette (2010) has suggested that the whole complex be regarded as a ‘superspecies’ with the A. tachiro and A. toussenelli clades recognised as separate ‘paraspecies’, since the two have phylogenetic, morphological and habitat preference differences, and have not been proved to interbreed. Louette also suggests that, on molecular grounds, A. t. unduliventer may constitute a monotypic third species within the complex.


Forest, plantations, and closed riverine woodland.


The African Goshawk is usually inconspicuous, but its presence is often betrayed by its call which is often given when circling high above the forest, but is also given by birds perched in the canopy of large trees.


Prey comprises mainly birds (usually bulbul size or smaller), but includes small mammals. Hunting is usually done using a quick dash from a perch in cover, and birds are caught both in flight and on the ground.


Call: a sharp "tchit......tchit......tchit" (at two-second intervals) that has been likened to the click of two stones being struck together.


  1. Allan, DG, 2005, “African Goshawk Accipiter tachiro” in Hockey, PAR, Dean, WRJ & Ryan PG (eds.) Roberts Birds of Southern Africa, 7th edition. Cape Town, Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund.
  2. Borrow, N & Demey, R, 2001, Birds of Western Africa. London: Christopher Helm.
  3. Borrow, N & Demey, R, 2004, Field Guide to the Birds of Western Africa. London: Christopher Helm.
  4. Clark, WS & Davies, RAG, 2000, “Taxonomic problems in African diurnal raptors” in Chancellor, RD & Meyburg B-U, Raptors at Risk. Proceedings of the 5th World Conference on Birds of Prey and Owls, Midrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, 4-11 August 1998. Berlin/Blaine: World Working Group on Birds of Prey and Owls/Hancock House Publishers.
  5. Ferguson-Lees, J, & Christie, DA, 2001, Raptors of the World, London: Christopher Helm.
  6. Hockey, PAR, WRJ Dean, and PG Ryan, eds. 2005. Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa. 7th ed. Cape Town: John Voelcker Bird Book Fund. ISBN 978-0620340533
  7. Kemp, AC, 1994, “Afrotropical Accipitridae” in del Hoyo, Elliot & Sargatal (eds.) Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 2. Barcelona: Lynx Editions.
  8. Kemp, A & Kemp, M, 1998, Birds of Prey of Africa and its Islands. London: New Holland.
  9. Lepage D. 2007. Avibase. Search for "Accipiter tachiro" downloaded 10 October 2007.
  10. Louette, M, 2010, “Plumage variation in African Goshawk Accipiter tachiro and its separation from congenerics in equatorial Africa” in Bulletin of the African Bird Club, vol. 7, no. 1.
  11. Sinclair, I and P Ryan. 2003. Birds of Africa South of the Sahara. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0691118154
  12. Steyn P. 1982. Birds of Prey of Southern Africa. David Philip, Cape Town, South Africa, ISBN 0908396643, Tanager Books, Dover, USA, ISBN 0880720255, Croom Helm, Beckenham, UK. ISBN 0709923821.

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