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Red alert as our rarest bird of prey faces extinction

Australia's rarest bird of prey - the red goshawk - could become extinct, with the Cape York Peninsula now the only place in Queensland known to support breeding populations.

The unique bird of prey features striking reddish-brown plumage, deeply fingered wing tips, heavy yellow legs and oversized talons.

The vulnerable species is found mainly in the savanna woodlands of northern Australia, particularly near watercourses.

However, a recent study by the University of Queensland shows its numbers continue to dwindle, promoting calls for the bird to be declared an endangered species.

"Over four decades, the red goshawk has lost a third of its historical range, which is the area that it's previously been known to occupy," PhD candidate Chris MacColl said.

"It's barely hanging on in another 30 per cent of regions it has previously been known to inhabit."

The goshawk is considered extinct in NSW and listed as a vulnerable species under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

The study calls for the red goshawk's national conservation status to be amended and given conservation priority.

"There has been a noticeable decline in North Queensland too, leaving Cape York Peninsula as the last place in the state still known to support breeding populations," Mr MacColl said.

"The Top End, Tiwi Islands and Kimberley are the red goshawk's last remaining stronghold, making northern Australia critical to its ongoing survival."

The research team analysed four decades of sightings by citizen scientists to uncover the concerning population trends.

Study co-author Professor James Watson said the dramatic loss of the species means governments and communities must be proactive in conserving remaining habitats.

"Conservation efforts aimed at securing an emblematic species like the red goshawk in these areas will benefit many other species given the species is a top predator," Prof Watson said.