Wednesday, 18 December 2013

African harrier-hawk

Polyboroides typus

Photo by Jenny Varley (Wikipedia)

Common name:
African harrier-hawk (en); secretário-pequeno (pt); gymnogène d'Afrique (fr); aguilucho-caricalvo común (es); höhlenweihe (de)

Order Falconiformes
Family Accipitridae

This species throughout sub-Saharan Africa, from southern mauritania to Sudan and Ethiopia and south to South Africa.

These birds are 51-68 cm long and have a wingspan of 118-152 cm. They weigh 500-950 g.

The African harrier-hawk is found in a wide range of habitats, including tropical and temperate forests and woodlands, dry savannas, dry scrublands, riparian vegetation along rivers and streams, second growths, plantations of Eucalyptus and other exotic trees, arable land and even urban areas. They occur from sea level up to an altitude of 3.000 m.

They hunt various small animals, including small mammals, frogs, lizards, birds, bird eggs and fledglings, and insects. Occasionally, they also take stranded fish or carrion, and are known to feed on oil-palm fruits.

African harrier-hawks are usually monogamous and highly territorial. They can breed all year round, varying among different parts of their range. The nest is built by both sexes, consisting of a large platform made of sticks and lined with green leaves, placed on the upper branches of a tree or on a rocky cliff ledge. The female lays 1-3 white eggs with reddish-brown markings, which are incubated by both parents for 35-36 days. The chicks are fed by the male and brooded by the female. Often the older chick kills is siblings, and fledges 45-55 days after hatching. It becomes fully independent about 10 days later.

IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
This species has an extremely large breeding range and is described as fairly common in West Africa, but less common an patchily distributed in other areas. The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats and the African harrier-hawk is thought to adapt quite easily to altered environments, and its preference for stands of alien trees has even resulted in it colonising new areas

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