Family Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)

Least Concern

Variable Goshawk (Accipiter hiogaster)


French: Autour variable German: Inselhabicht Spanish: Azor variable

Falco hiogaster

S. Müller

, 1841,



Often treated as conspecific with A. novaehollandiae and with A. sylvestris, but differs in darker grey upperparts (2), rufous in underparts (3), presence of a streaked/barred juvenile plumage (2), and somewhat smaller size (1). N Moluccan forms griseogularis, obiensis and mortyi sometimes treated as a separate species, A. griseogularis, but characters used in diagnosis (e.g. in recent monograph#R) present in certain other taxa in restricted A. hiogaster. Race natalis of A. fasciatus may belong to present species. Polytypic; New Guinea mainland populations also polymorphic. Twenty-one subspecies recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. h. mortyi E. J. O. Hartert, 1925 – Morotai (N Moluccas).
  • A. h. griseogularis (G. R. Gray, 1861) – Grey-throated Goshawk – Halmahera, Bacan and adjacent islands (N Moluccas).
  • A. h. obiensis (E. J. O. Hartert, 1903) – Obi (N Moluccas).
  • A. h. hiogaster (S. Müller, 1841) – Variable Goshawk – Seram and outlying islands (S Moluccas).
  • A. h. pallidiceps (Salvadori, 1879) – Buru (S Moluccas).
  • A. h. polionotus (Salvadori, 1889) – Banda Is (S of Seram) and E Lesser Sundas (Damar, Babar and Tanimbar Is).
  • A. h. albiventris (Salvadori, 1876) – Tayandu Is and Kai Is (S Moluccas).
  • A. h. leucosomus (Sharpe, 1874) – New Guinea and adjacent islands, Aru Is.
  • A. h. misoriensis (Salvadori, 1876) – Biak I (in N Geelvink Bay).
  • A. h. pallidimas Mayr, 1940 – D’Entrecasteaux Archipelago (SE New Guinea).
  • A. h. misulae Mayr, 1940 – Louisiade Archipelago (SE New Guinea).
  • A. h. manusi Mayr, 1945 – Admiralty Is (NW Bismarck Archipelago)
  • A. h. matthiae Mayr, 1945 – St Matthias I (N Bismarck Archipelago).
  • A. h. lavongai Mayr, 1945 – New Hanover, New Ireland and Tabar Is (NE Bismarcks).
  • A. h. lihirensis Stresemann, 1933 – Lihir and Tanga Is (off E New Ireland).
  • A. h. dampieri (Gurney, Sr, 1882) – Umboi and New Britain (S Bismarcks).
  • A. h. bougainvillei (Rothschild & E. J. O. Hartert, 1905) – Bougainville and Shortland Is (N Solomon Is).
  • A. h. rufoschistaceus (Rothschild & E. J. O. Hartert, 1902) – Choiseul, Santa Isabel and Florida Is (C Solomons).
  • A. h. rubianae (Rothschild & E. J. O. Hartert, 1905) – New Georgia Is (C Solomons).
  • A. h. pulchellus (E. P. Ramsay, 1882) – Guadalcanal (SW Solomons).
  • A. h. malaitae Mayr, 1931 – Malaita (SE Solomon Is).
  • Descriptive notes

    30–48 cm; leucosomus 247 g (one male) and 439 g (one female), dampieri 175 g (one male), rufoschistaceus 172–187 g (three males)... read more


    A series of high, weak notes, sometimes rising in pitch. Juvenile gives short series of fairly... read more


    Rain forest, open and second-growth forest, forest edge and adjacent open country, riverine forest... read more

    Food and feeding

    Varied diet includes small mammals, small birds, lizards, snakes and arthropods. Hunts mostly from concealed and exposed perches but also... read more


    Little information. Thought to nest from May–Dec; laying peaks Jul–Aug in New Guinea; male in breeding condition Jun/Jul on... read more


    Presumably, adults sedentary, and longer movements are confined to dispersing juveniles.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. No data on numbers or population trends, but considered one of the most common hawks in New Guinea, and fairly common in... read more

    Recommended citation

    del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Marks, J.S. (2020). Variable Goshawk (Accipiter hiogaster). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 26 February 2020).