This large Accipiter is difficult to characterize as a migrant. Some years it's nearly absent from counts at U.S. hawkwatch sites, while other years large numbers are tallied at many sites (most likely because of prey species depletion in northern breeding areas). In the particularly cold winter of 1972, a watch site in Minnesota recorded 3,908 Northern Goshawks during the week of October 11; the count for the entire year at that site was 5,352.
Typically, this species is recorded in low numbers at sites in Washington, Oregon, New Mexico, Minnesota, and a few Northeastern sites. Good counts have also been recorded at Cape May, New Jersey, in recent years. Migratory goshawks leave the boreal forests of Canada and Alaska at any time during the fall and move to locations in the Great Basin, the Rockies, the forests of New Mexico and Arizona, and parts of the Great Plains. It's an enigmatic species for many American birders, and reports of a wave of Northern Goshawks at a nearby site are worth pursuing for a once-in-a-lifetime look at this powerful hunter.