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Bat Hawk [Macheiramphus alcinus]


The adult Bat Hawk has a primarily brown-black feather colour except for a singular white spot below each eye. The centre of the chest and the throat are white with a black stripe running down. They have beautiful eyes, that are a bright yellow and cere black. They have blueish-grey legs and feet. The young have generally duller colours than the adults.


Bat Hawks’ diet consists mainly of bats, swifts, swallows and swiftlets. If they don’t have access to these prey animals, they can be supplemented by smaller birds and insects. These birds hunt prey by chasing them at high speed.

Bat-Hawk-Kruger National Park


During mating Season Bat Hawks perform dazzling stunts, fast flying, rolls and foot touching around their breeding sites. All these stunts are performed at high speeds and when they come to the nesting tree to land, they come in fast and low, hopping up onto the branches. They build their nests in the same tree where they rest in throughout the day. The Bat Hawk builds its nest high up on a lateral branch of a tree. The female does more of the building than the males. The nests are rather large in size, up to a meter in diameter and up to half a meter deep. They seem to be able to make their nests in busy towns as well.

The Female will incubate the eggs, sitting close to the eggs during the day, occasionally taking flight. The male does most of the hunting, feeding the female while she is in the nest.  Incubation lasts about a month and the young fledge in about 37 days. The young will be fed about 20 minutes before dark. The parents will rapidly feed the young and then will drop food into the nest and then fly off. The parents will stay close to the nest while the young are fledging. These birds are regular breeders.


When in the air, the Bat Hawk is dark and slender and the size of a buzzard, but it has the silhouette of a large falcon. These birds are often easily identified they have almost black bodies, white chest and yellow eyes and legs. The most important thing to a Bat Hawk is large open space with plenty of bats and swiftlets as well as large insects, providing a good source of food. They can be seen flying and hunting over pools of water, from rivers and lakes, to shores, beaches and creeks. The Bat Hawk is rather rare because of how specialized its habitats need to be, but in the areas where they do appear, they are quite common.

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