The Red Goshawk is a large, swift and powerful rufous-brown hawk, growing to a length of 45–60 cm, with a wingspan of 100–135 cm. The two sexes of this species are quite different in size and appearance (Baker-Gabb 1984 in NPWS 2002). The females weigh approximately 1.1 kg, the males approximately 0.63 kg. The Red Goshawk is boldly mottled and streaked, with rufous scalloping on the back and upper wings, rufous underparts that are brightest and lack streaking on the thighs, and with massive yellowish legs and feet, and boldly barred underwings. Females are larger, more powerfully built, paler and more heavily streaked below, showing some white on the under body. Juveniles have redder upperparts, and the head and underparts are rich rufous with fine dark streaks. The juvenile's rufous head distinguishes it from adults.
The Red Goshawk can further be distinguished from other similar raptors by its broad 'six-fingered' wings that are held at slightly angled planes when soaring, the lack of pale markings on upperparts, the heavy and dark streaking on the head and chest, the flat head, the deep bill (female), the broad deep chest, and the long tail which is square-tipped to slightly rounded at the tip. No geographical variation has been observed in Red Goshawk morphology (Aumann & Baker-Gabb 1991; Debus 1998; Debus & Czechura 1988b; Marchant & Higgins 1993; Olsen & Debus 2002).
The Red Goshawk is solitary and very thinly dispersed. It is usually observed singly, and occasionally in pairs or family groups. Red Goshawk pairs are believed to remain within the nesting territory all year, but some may expand their home range when not breeding (Aumann & Baker-Gabb 1991; Debus & Czechura 1988b). In the southeast of their range it has been suggested that adults may migrate from the ranges to lowland winter territories (Czechura 1996, 1997 in NPWS 2002). Occasional records of individuals hundreds of kilometres from the known breeding range suggest juvenile dispersal from their natal territories may be extensive (Debus & Czechura 1988b).
The Red Goshawk occurs in coastal and sub-coastal areas in wooded and forested lands of tropical and warm-temperate Australia (Marchant & Higgins 1993). Riverine forests are also used frequently (Debus 1991, 1993). Such habitats typically support high bird numbers and biodiversity, especially medium to large species which the goshawk requires for prey. The Red Goshawk nests in large trees, frequently the tallest and most massive in a tall stand, and nest trees are invariably within one km of permanent water (Aumann & Baker-Gabb 1991; Debus & Czechura 1988b).
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