A Hawkish Stance

[This post is coming rather soon after the last, for reasons that will be apparent in the final paragraph!]

Two good-sized raptors that frequent the Gambia are the African Harrier, and the Lizard Buzzard. Let me introduce you.

A pair of African Harrier Hawks, Polyboroides typus, posed for us late one afternoon.

They have a wingspan of up to five feet. Unusually for hawks, they mostly hunt their prey by poking around in holes and crevices in trees. They are looking for nestlings, lizards, squirrels and the like. They have long flexibly jointed legs, with an intertarsal joint that is flexible through 190°–205°, meaning it can bend both backwards and forwards, which helps get into cavities.

They have a jaunty crest, and a bare orangey red face.

Those specialized legs are an interesting example of convergent evolution. The Crane Hawk, a unrelated New World species, has a similar hunting technique, and similar legs. I photographed this one in the Pantanal in Brazil in 2013.

The much smaller Lizard Buzzard, Kaupifalco monogrammicus, is a handsome bird with a distinctive single vertical black stripe down the centre of its throat,

like a skinny necktie* :

The Lizard Buzzard has a shortish stubby bill:

and a wingspan of about 2 1/2 feet.

Despite its name, it doesn’t eat only lizards; large insects make up a lot of its diet.

* Thankyou Brad Vernatter, General Director and CEO of Boston Lyric Opera, for this photo on the opening night of their wonderful Bluebeard’s Castle. If you are in Boston, it’s still on this weekend, March 25 and 26. Do go.

One thought on “A Hawkish Stance”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: