Goshawks have a circumpolar distribution from the treeline southwards, breeding almost exclusively in forests and woodland, though also hunting over open ground, particularly in winter. In Europe they are absent only from Iceland and Ireland, and do not migrate except for some northern populations that disperse south in winter.
    In southern England, Goshawks became extinct in the wild before the 16th century through persecution and the taking of nestlings for falconry, though in Scotland they may have bred until the late 19th century. Occasional records elsewhere were assumed to be escaped falconers' birds until the mid 1960s when it became apparent that escaped birds together with some that had been deliberately released now constituted self-sustaining wild populations. By the time of the 1988-91 Breeding Atlas they had become widespread, particularly in forests in Wales, the Pennines and the southern highlands of Scotland. Bird Atlas 2007-11 recorded them present in 18% of 10km squares in Great Britain, with breeding confirmed in half of them.
    In Wiltshire the first modern sighting came in 1953, the second in 1958 and then seven more in the years leading up to 1979 when breeding was first recorded. It was then another 20 years before breeding was recorded again, in 1999 at an undisclosed site. From then on breeding occurred anually, with between one and four pairs every year up to 2010, then in increasing numbers, rising from seven pairs in 2011 to 18 pairs confirmed breeding and a further 11 probables in 2017.

The following references are used throughout these species accounts, in the abbreviated form given in quotation marks:
“1968-72 Breeding Atlas” – Sharrack, J.T.R. 1976:  The Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
“1981-84 Winter Atlas” – Lack, P.C. 1986:  The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
“1988-91 Breeding Atlas” – Gibbons, D.W., Reid, J.B. & Chapman, R.A. 1993: The New Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland 1988-91. T. & A. Poyser
“Birds of Wiltshire” – Ferguson-Lees, I.J. et al. 2007 : Birds of Wiltshire, published by the tetrad atlas group of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society after mapping fieldwork 1995-2000. Wiltshire Ornithological Society.
“Bird Atlas 2007-2011” – Balmer, D.E., Gillings, S., Caffrey, B.J., Swann, R.L., Downie, I.S. and Fuller, R.J. 2013: Bird Atlas 2007-2011: the Breeding and Wintering Birds of Britain and Ireland
“WTA2” – ("Wiltshire Tetrad Atlas 2 ") the present electronic publication, bringing together the Wiltshire data from “Birds of Wiltshire” and “Bird Atlas 2007-11”, together with data from further fieldwork carried out in 2011 and 2012.
"Hobby" - the annual bird report of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society.