New Brunswick

Aggressive hawk sets up nest on Fredericton trail

An aggressive hawk has taken over a trail in the University of New Brunswick woodlot.

Northern goshawk is attacking trail users to defend fledglings

Northern goshawks can be identified by their distinct, patterned plumage. (Steve Garvie)

Imagine running through a forested area. The warm sun burns your skin and sweat rolls down your forehead.

Then a medium-sized bird swoops down and claws the back of your head.

That was the reality earlier this week for some runners and bikers in Fredericton.

An aggressive hawk has taken over a trail in the University of New Brunswick woodlot. The UNB woodlot trails stretch behind Regent Mall and the Corbett Centre on the city's south side. 

Graham Forbes, a professor of forestry and environmental management and biology at the University of New Brunswick, said the northern goshawk is nesting in the trail and will scare away potential threats by dive-bombing them. 

"Most birds just fly away or try to stay quiet, but if these species think you're a threat to their young … they will actually attack," said Forbes, who has not visited the bird on the trail.

Goshawks typically nest three or four fledglings and feed off medium-size prey such as squirrels and rabbits.

Hawks nest for two to three weeks, Forbes said, and they will attack anyone who comes within range of their nests — especially people who are alone. 

"They usually attack someone if they're by themselves as opposed to a group."

Red caution tape is now blocking the trail to prevent people from coming near the mother hawk. 

Forbes said the trail will likely be blocked off until early July, giving the hawk enough time to teach her fledglings to fly. 

"When the young are able to fly, they're not so vulnerable and the female's behaviour is not so strong to try to protect them." 

When the nesting period is over and the hawks move elsewhere to forage, the threat of being swooped will disappear, Forbes said.

Goshawks are known for attacking trail users in North America to protect their young.

 

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