Henst’s goshawk -- 亨氏鹰 (Accipiter henstii)

Henst's goshawk in western dry forest habitat
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Henst’s goshawk fact file

Henst’s goshawk description

GenusAccipiter (1)

This large bird of prey, found only on the biologically unique island of Madagascar, has largely dark brownish-grey plumage. The underparts are finely barred with greyish-brown and white (2), a distinctive pale strip runs above the yellow eyes, and the long legs are also yellow (2) (4). When flying through the forest, the Henst’s goshawk’s (Accipiter henstii) rounded wings, long, barred tail and pale rump can be seen (4). The female Henst’s goshawks are distinctly larger than males, while juveniles can be distinguished by the large brown spots on the breast and belly (2) (4). During the breeding season, Henst’s goshawks can be loud, vocal birds, with a rapid ‘keey-keey-keey’ uttered while perched or in flight (4)

Autour de Henst.
Azor Malgache.
Length: 52 – 62 cm (2)

Henst’s goshawk biology

Like other birds of prey, Henst’s goshawk is an accomplished predator, with acute eyesight, a powerful bill, and sharp, curved talons (5). With this armoury, it hunts and feeds on forest birds, poultry and mammals (2), including lemurs. It is capable of taking a range of lemur species, from the smallest to one of the largest, capturing and returning to its nest with a lemur weighing up to four kilograms (6). The Henst’s goshawk hunts mainly from a hidden perch (2), but will also search for prey as it flies swiftly through the forest; rarely does it soar over the forest canopy (2) (6).

Henst’s goshawks construct large nests of sticks in the main fork of a tree, occasionally within a eucalyptus plantation. Eggs are laid from October to November, from which hatch white, downy chicks (2).


Henst’s goshawk range

Henst's goshawk is endemic to Madagascar, where it occurs in the east and west, but is not known from the drier south (2)


Henst’s goshawk habitat

Henst’s goshawks inhabit the primary rainforest of eastern Madagascar and the dry forests in the western parts of the island, from sea level up to an elevation of 1,800 metres. It sometimes also occurs in secondary woodland (2)


Henst’s goshawk status

Henst's goshawk is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened


Henst’s goshawk threats

This large forest raptor is not common, but appears to be present in almost all large forest blocks that have been surveyed (7). However, dependency on forest habitat makes Henst's goshawk vulnerable to deforestation (2), a threat which impacts much of the biodiversity of Madagascar. Agriculture, including rice cultivation, slash-and-burn agriculture and cattle grazing, has resulted in the loss of over 80 percent of Madagascar’s natural vegetation (8), with knock-on effects for the animals, plants and people which rely on this vital resource.


Henst’s goshawk conservation

Henst’s goshawk occurs in several protected areas including Ranomafana National Park (6) and Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve (9), which may offer some protection from the threat of deforestation. The government of Madagascar, along with numerous conservation organisations, recognise the importance of conserving the islands’ unique and stunning biodiversity, and in 2003, the president of Madagascar pledged to triple the coverage of protected areas (8). There are many obstacles and challenges still ahead, but there is hope they can be overcome, for the sake of the animal, plant and human inhabitants of Madagascar.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For further information on conservation in Madagascar:

For more information on Henst's goshawk and other bird species:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:



A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Primary rainforest
Forest that has remained undisturbed for a long time and has reached a mature condition.
Secondary woodland
Woodland that has re-grown after a major disturbance, such as fire or timber harvest, but has not yet reached the mature state of primary woodland.
The cutting and burning of forests or woodlands to create space for agriculture or livestock.


  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2007)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1994) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. CITES (January, 2008)
  4. Sinclair, I. and Langrand, O. (2004) Birds of the Indian Ocean Islands. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  5. Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  6. Karpanty, S.M. (2006) Direct and Indirect Impacts of Raptor Predation on Lemurs in Southeastern Madagascar. International Journal of Primatology, 21(1): 239 - 261.
  7. BirdLife International (January, 2008)
  8. Conservation International Biodiversity Hotspots (January, 2008)
  9. UNEP-WCMC: Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve (January, 2008)

Image credit

Henst's goshawk in western dry forest habitat  
Henst's goshawk in western dry forest habitat

© Pete Oxford / naturepl.com

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