Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Grey Goshawk: Ella Bay’s Deadly Forest Assassin

The Grey Goshawk Accipiter novaehollandiae lives at Ella Bay.
(Photo by

This noble forest predator is listed as rare by the Nature Conservation Act although it may be found in every Australian state. It is not a huge bird, measuring from 40 to 55 cm long and weighing up to 680 grams (larger birds are females).

Grey goshawks are an ambush predator. Their usual hunting method is to find a large rainforest tree which allows them to quietly conceal themselves and wait for a victim. Interestingly this is the same hunting technique is used by the Laughing Kookaburra Dacelo novaeguineae. So the story which is about to unfold contains a touch or irony.
Wild banana (a cassowary food plant)

Recently I went on a rainforest walk with my friend Jeff the entomologist to look at native bananas Musa banksii (a cassowary food plant) and giant King Ferns Angiopteris evecta. As we approached a creek we disturbed a large Grey Goshawk on the ground which flew away before yours truly could snap a photo.

Once we got to the creek we found the goshawk’s victim which was a Laughing Kookaburra.
Goshawk victim (Laughing Kookaburra)
I snapped off a couple of quick shots and departed with all haste in the hope that this noble bird would return to its meal.

Whilst drinking from the crystal clear stream we discussed the irony of what we had just witnessed. The kookaburra was probably focussing on the creek and a potential meal of a rainforest lizard or frog while above it in the canopy the goshawk watched on waiting for the perfect moment to launch its own lethal ambush attack. The hunter became the hunted!

It brought home to me how important mature rainforest trees are for the survival of this species not just for nesting but for launching their stealthy ambush attacks.

Indeed BAAM, Satori’s environmental consultants, have stated that in relation to grey goshawks ‘regrowth forest less than 30 years old is seldom used’ (Marchant and Higgins 1993) and ‘the species is still threatened by habitat loss.’

Taking into account Satori’s promise to plant rainforest trees Ella Bay’s grey goshawks may be grateful in 2040. Let’s hope they are still with us then and that they have forgiven the developers for the destruction of their rainforest habitat which will occur if Federal Environmental Minister Peter Garrett AM MP fails to reject Satrori’s 450 hectare urban development/resort.

1 comment:

  1. Nice funding and great picture of hunter there.
    Thanks for sharing this.


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