The Bat Hawk- The Twilight Avenger of the Skies
By Julia Pierini
This fast-flying, falcon-like hawk is a crepuscular bird which obtains its food in short half-hour periods just before sunset and after sunrise. It has a rather kite-like appearance when perched, except for its distinctive crest, but it more closely resembles a snake eagle in that it has brilliant yellow eyes and a long breeding period. When hunting, it has an efficient air-strike technique, the long and slender toes being well-adapted to gripping the bats, insects and small birds on which it feeds. Prey is gripped within its talons and transferred to its mouth and swallowed whole – all in flight. Quite an amazing feat!
For the bat hawk, most of the day is spent roosting. During breeding season (September to November), both parents, but particularly the female, will defend the nest vigorously, attacking birds such as crows and driving them off with powerful aerial displays and high-pitched calls, sometimes binding to the intruder momentarily. After this activity, the birds remain soaring around the nesting area for several minutes. The male and female stay close together throughout the breeding period with the female doing all the incubating and brooding.
Bat hawks are not as rare as is commonly supposed, but because they take cover in heavily foliaged trees, they are seldom seen. They can be found in Harare’s suburbs, so keep your eyes peeled!
BirdLife Zimbabwe Mashonaland Branch organizes regular bird walks for its members and non-members free of charge (however there may be entry fees e.g. National Parks or a tip required depending on the location). For further information please contact Tony Alegria: firstname.lastname@example.org, cell: 0772 438697. Or check out the BLZ website: www.birdlifezimbabwe.org