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Christmas Goshawk
AU-VGO-01 Variable Goshawk ( Accipiter hiogaster ) Christmas Island-M
Information
Common Name Christmas Island Goshawk
Range Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the eastern Indian Ocean.
Scientific Classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Aves
Order Accipitriformes
Family Accipitridae
Genus Accipiter
Species Accipiter fasciatus
Accipiter fasciatus natalis
Conservation Status
LCSpecies
Least Concern

The Christmas goshawk or Christmas Island goshawk (Accipiter fasciatus natalis), is a subspecies of bird of prey in Accipitridae family. It is a threatened and endemic of Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the eastern Indian Ocean.

Taxonomy

The taxon was described in 1889 by Lister as a full species, Accipiter natalis. Since then there has been debate as to whether its affinities lie with the brown goshawk or the grey goshawk (Accipiter novaehollandiae). In the 2004 national recovery plan for the taxon it is treated as a subspecies of the brown goshawk, though the possibility has been raised of elevating it to the species level again. Christidis and Boles (2008) treat it as a subspecies of the variable goshawk (Accipiter hiogaster). Here it is treated as a subspecies of the brown goshawk pending further study of its genome.

Description

The Christmas goshawk is smaller and has more rounded wings than the nominate subspecies. Colouration is broadly similar, differing in that the hindneck, cap and ear coverts are dark grey, lacking a brown tinge. Females are distinctly larger than males.

Distribution and Habitat

The goshawk is restricted to the 135 km² Christmas Island where it is found in the tropical rainforest that covers 75% of the island, as well as in other habitats there such as regrowth forest and the edges of clearings.

Behavior

Feeding

The goshawk feeds on a wide range of vertebrates and invertebrates, including birds, mammals, reptiles and insects. It takes its prey from the ground or in flight. It will hunt from a perch or chase birds through the forest.

Status and Conservation

The goshawk is listed as endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. There are no detailed population statistics for the goshawks, though the population is small and it has been estimated that there are no more than 100 mature birds, or 50 breeding pairs, on the island. The principal threat comes from yellow crazy ants which were accidentally introduced to the island. The threat is not only that of ant predation of goshawk nestlings, but also indirectly from potentially massive changes to the ecology of the island caused by the ants.

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