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Gosh – a super swooper!

December 28, 2021

It’s commonplace to get swooped by a magpie during the nesting season, but I was taken by surprise when I stepped into a clearing and got swooped by a large screaming dark bird of prey. It kept swooping low over my head and perching on various branches on either side. After a few good looks, I recognised it as a Brown Goshawk (Accipiter fasciatus) and the fact that it was so large meant that it was a female – the female is almost a third larger than the male in goshawks and sparrowhawks. It got harassed in turn by first one, then two, then three Leaden Flycatchers – a noteworthy bird to observe in itself.

I had seen this same bird perched and calling on a tree a month or so ago a short distance from this spot and then it flew off in this direction when irritated by some nervous Grey Fantails.

Goshawk nest

I asked the Victorian Birders facebook page if anyone had encountered swooping Goshawks before, and someone shared a story of one that drew blood from a passing jogger in Langwarrin defending its nest. I knew there must be a nest nearby.

On a subsequent day, Ron Litjens and I returned to the area and saw both male and female birds flying around and sure enough, we soon spotted the nest at the top of a tall Red Gum.

It is impossible to tell as yet how successful the nesting season has been, but we will keep monitoring from time to time and hope to see some chicks emerge before too long.

Goshawks are stealth hunters. They do not soar around on thermals and drop like kites or eagles. They sit quietly until they see a prey bird – honeyeater or blackbird, for example, then launch suddenly with powerful feet extended to grab the victim out of the tree they are in. I was once noticing a honeyeater feeding on blossom in a small bush on a street in a rural town, when a great whoosh passed my ear and a goshawk hit the bush like an explosion and flew off with the hapless honeyeater held at a cruel angle.

The power of this bird makes being swooped by it a good deal more terrifying than a pedestrian-buzzing magpie.

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 28, 2021 5:27 pm

    Just to add to your, collection of swooping stories I have been swooped vey aggressively several times by Gossies over the years.
    Once last season by a Sparrowhawk. Always a female.
    Once the encounter had her chase me more than 100 m through the scrub as I beat a hasty retreat.
    Several years back at the Werribee Treatment Plant a Brown Falcon patrolled a roadway for several weeks and would hit cars as we drive by with the windows wound up.

    Beautiful birds but ones I treat with enormous respect.

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