Tuesday, 15 March 2011

The Goshawk - Some information

I reported observing a male Goshawk whilst I was down in Norfolk over the weekend. These birds are awesome hunters, they have such immense power and are a joy to watch. I thought I'd look into a few details regarding the naming of the Goshawk, Accipiter gentilis gentilis from my latest secondhand book found in Beverley last week. A copy of Key to the Names of British Birds by R.D. Macleod published in 1954.

Common Name: Goshawk, that is "goose-hawk"; Anglo-Saxon gos, goose; Geese are one of the many kinds of creatures on which this hawk preys.

Northern Goshawk © Norbert Kenntner 2006.

Scientific Name: Accipiter gentilis (Brisson MJ - Ornithologist 1760). From the Latin accipiter, hawk from Pliny's Natural History, Book X is devoted to birds and is the main source of our Latin names. This great Roman lived in the first century (23-79) A.D., and was a many of many talents. Though primarily a man of letters, he was also a man of action and it was the combination of these two roles that brought him to his death - whilst as an admiral/naturalist investigating the eruption of Vesuvius in which he perished. Book X is his sole surviving work; accipio, seize; ad, towards, and capio, take: with reference to the bird's predatory habit. A difficulty about this derivation is that the usual meaning of accipio in classical Latin is not "seize," but "receive". However in Medieval Latin accipio undoubtedly means "seize"; for Albertus Magnus (also known as Albertus of Cologne about 1206-1280) with regard to one kind of accipiter, says "magnas aves accipit," which evidently means "it seizes large birds."

Subspecies in UK: Accipiter gentilis gentilis (Linnaeus - Swedish naturalist Carl von Linne 1707-1778). Linnaeus established the custom of making a bird's name consist of two terms, the first the genus and the second the species, more recently the custom has grown up of adding a third term to indicate a sub-species. From the Medieval Latin gentilis, noble; with reference to its prowess at hunting in the days of falconry. Albertus Magnus describes this bird as "the most noble kind of all falcons" (genus falconum nobilissimum), with obvious reference to this characteristic. It used to be known as "the gentle falcon," "gentle" here corresponding to gentilis.

1 comment:

  1. Nice capture!

    Kah Wai