Northern Goshawk & Marbled Murrelet

A subspecies of Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis laingi) that lives in coastal British Columbia is listed as threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act and is on British Columbia’s Red List (species at risk of being lost). Species designation informs provincial management efforts for species at risk, including such measures as the establishment of Wildlife Habitat Areas for key breeding areas and these dictate how forest tenure holders conduct their operations on those lands.

The geographic range of this subspecies is uncertain and the degree of overlap with the more common interior subspecies (Accipiter gentilis atricapillus) is unclear. A better understanding of the distribution of the laingi subspecies is important to support effective conservation of this subspecies and to inform land management decisions.

To support conservation of this species at risk, an exciting new partnership between Genome British Columbia, the University of British Columbia, the Coast Forest Products Association and the Province of British Columbia has been established that will enable a detailed scientific analysis of genomic variation among populations of goshawks. The collaborators will all workMarbled Murrelet, photo by Jared Hobbs together to distribute the results of research findings to governmental policymakers and forest industry managers.

“The ultimate goals of the project are to determine the genetic distinctiveness and geographic boundaries of laingi and develop a genetic assay that other groups can use to identify laingi,” says Dr. Darren Irwin, Professor in the Department of Zoology at UBC. “All of the user partners are committed to publishing and using the research outcomes in a way that appropriately balances conservation of goshawks, conservation of other species and ecosystems along the BC coast, and economic interests."

The Marbled Murrelet is a small, north Pacific seabird that depends on large mossy platforms in old-growth forests for nesting habitat. Rather than build a nest, they make their nests on large, mossy branches, with just the slightest indent in the moss to lay their egg. Adults can travel up to 60 km inland to bring ocean fish to their chick on a daily basis. This makes Marbled Murrelets unique, as all other members of the Auk family nest in underground burrows along the shoreline.

Rare footage: Northern Goshawk chick in a nest (Haida Gwaii)

The Canadian population, confined entirely to British Columbia, was assigned threatened status by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada in 1990. The Marbled Murrelet is on British Columbia’s Blue List (species of concern) of species being considered for legal designation as endangered or threatened.

The province is working to develop population and distribution objectives for both Northern Goshawk laingi and Marbled Murrelet, which will be formalized through development of implementation plans for both species. The plans will include key actions required to support the ongoing management of these species, including the establishment of reserves such as Wildlife Habitat Areas, along with additional research and monitoring. In the interim, the protection of key habitats is necessary to ensure that management options are maintained. To enable the continued establishment of Wildlife Habitat Areas for this species, an agreement has been reached with the Coast Forest Products Association in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). This MOU facilitates the continued establishment of Wildlife Habitat Areas for both species in coastal forests, enabling the Province to demonstrate tangible, on-the-ground progress in the management and conservation of their habitats.