Those confounding accipiters

Accipiter is the genus name for the group of birds commonly known as goshawks.

Locally we have two species, the Collared Sparrowhawk Accipiter cirrocephalus and the Brown Goshawk Accipiter fasciatus. A third species, the Grey Goshawk is a rare visitor to the district … I’ve observed it locally once, in forty years.

Over the years I’ve posted regularly about both the Collared Sparrowhawk and the Brown Goshawk, in particular the identification challenges they pose. For a sample click here and here.

In summary, here are the features on which to base an identification:

  • Tail shape – Brown Goshawk has a rounded tail, square in the Collared Sparrowhawk
  • Legs and middle toe – Collared Sparrowhawk has a elongated middle toe and finer legs
  • Cere (the waxy, fleshy covering between the upper bill and forehead feathers) – Collared Sparrowhawk has pale-blue in front of the cere, in the Brown Goshawk it is dull-yellow
  • Brow – Brown Goshawk has more prominent brow ridges, resulting in a frowning expression while the Collared Sparrowhawk appears to stare

On this basis the bird pictured below is an adult Brown Goshawk, most likely a male. The females of both species are much larger than the males, with the female Collared Sparrowhawk of similar size and build to the male Brown Goshawk. The adult and juvenile/immature plumages in both species are essentially the same, apart from the fact that the Collared Sparrowhawk moults directly from juvenile to adult plumage, skipping a distinct immature phase.

This particular individual was based through the garden by some Red Wattlebirds, alighting briefly in a large eucalyptus before departing.


Brown Goshawk, Newstead, 27th May 2022











2 responses to “Those confounding accipiters

  1. beautiful Geoff – a little confused about the middle toe – it looks quite long. cheers Allan

  2. Hi Allan
    Yes, agree with your observation. This bird has had me baffled for a few days and on some of the images the middle toe does look longish while the last image it doesn’t. Sticking with my ‘diagnosis’ for now. Cheers, Geoff

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.