A formidable hunter, the black goshawk mainly feeds on birds, and is capable of tackling prey as large as guineafowl. This species' main hunting technique is to perch on a tree, concealed amongst the foliage, from which it makes a rapid dash to intercept its unsuspecting prey. While this method usually brings immediate success, on occasion, it results in a prolonged, high-speed chase across forest, grassland and savanna. The black goshawk has adapted well to the expansion of urban development, exploiting the abundance of pigeons and doves found in town and cities (4). The black goshawk's breeding season varies according to location, with populations in West Africa breeding from August to November, while those in Central and southern Africa mainly breed from May to October (4). Breeding pairs are territorial, constructing their nests high up in tall forest trees, usually at least half a kilometre from other pairs (4) (6). A clutch of two to four eggs is laid and incubated for around 34 to 38 days before hatching. The young take a further 37 to 47 days to fledge, during which time the adult brings food, sometimes carrying it from as far as 12 kilometres away (4). During brooding the black goshawk employs an ingenious form of pest control. It lines the nest with strong-smelling eucalyptus leaves, which repel invertebrate pests and parasites, such as blood-sucking mites, that may harm the young (7). After the young have left the nest, the black goshawk pair may breed again, thereby producing multiple broods in a single year, a behaviour which is rare in birds of prey (8). The black goshawk generally remains resident at a single location for most of the year and nesting sites are frequently re-used. Nevertheless, this species rapidly colonises new plantations, and may occasionally undertake long excursions over sea, lake or desert (4)
Variable, sometimes still hunting, generally not shy, also observed chasing poultry and weaver assemblages in native villages; it can be seen flying overhead, or very low, sometimes following river bed, but also seen gliding from post to post, also active dusk (Louette & Herroelen 2007).
Age-related plumage variation: the pattern of spotting (in the juvenile) and barring (in the adult) of the breast feathers is variable among all subspecies. Plumage characteristics are functionally related to habitat, age and possibly mimicry (Louette 2000).
Sexual dimorphism in:
- plumage-colour: the females of the woodland forms have much less rufous on flanks and tibiae than males (and often none at all);
- size: the females are larger than the males, like all Accipiter species worldwide.
The (southern) pale chanting goshawk (Melierax canorus) is a bird of prey in the family Accipitridae. This hawk breeds in southern Africa. It is a resident species of dry, open semi-desert with 75 cm or less annual rainfall. It is commonly seen perched on roadside telephone poles.
This species is 56–65 cm long. The adult has grey upperparts with a white rump. The central tail feathers are black tipped with white, and the outer feathers are barred grey and white. The head and upper breast are pale grey; the rest of the underparts are finely barred in dark grey and white. Its eyes are red, the bill is mostly red, and it has long red legs. It is paler than the grey-rumped dark chanting goshawk, Melierax metabates.
In flight, the adult has black primary flight feathers, very pale grey (white from a distance) secondaries, and grey forewings. The wingspan is about 105 cm.
Immatures have brown upperparts, with a white rump and black bars on the tail. From below, the flight feathers and tail are white with black barring, the throat is dark-streaked white, and the rest of the underparts are rufous.
The pale chanting goshawk eats a variety of vertebrate prey, mainly lizards, but also small mammals and birds, and large insects. It often walks on the ground.
This is generally a rather quiet bird, but during the breeding season the male makes a series of tuneful whistling calls kleeuu, kleeuu-ku-ku-ku from a tree-top perch.
Normally a female mates with a single male, but in "broken veld" vegetation, a female and two males may form a polyandrous trio.
The relatively small stick nest is built in an acacia at a height of 3 to 10 m. The female lays and incubates one or two pale bluish or greenish white, unmarked eggs. Only one chick is normally reared from a nest of two. The breeding cycle begins in midwinter and takes over 115 days. The young after leaving the nest may be found near it for some months and in the following year may even display in the same area. Some pairs and especially trios raise a second brood, starting about 24 days after the first brood fledges.
^ abcMalan, G.; Crowe, T. M.; Biggs, R.; Herholdt, J. J. (2008), The social system of the Pale Chanting Goshawk Melierax canorus; monogamy v polyandry and delayed dispersal, Ibis 139 (2): 313–321, doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.1997.tb04630.x (Abstract only for non-subscribers.)
Ian Sinclair, Phil Hockey and Warwick Tarboton, SASOL Birds of Southern Africa (Struik 2002) ISBN 1-86872-721-1
The largest of the African Accipiter species, the black goshawk is a distinctive bird of prey with conspicuous black and white plumage, rounded wing tips and a long tail (2). Although the adult plumage is generally black above and white below, there is considerable variation in patterning between individuals. Most commonly, the breast is white with black blotches and speckling along the flanks and thighs and sometimes across the belly, but some individuals are entirely black except for a white patch around the throat (2) (4). The juvenile black goshawk has markedly different plumage to the adult, which also varies between individuals. While the head is brown with dark streaks and the upperparts are plain brown, the underparts may be either reddish-brown with dark streaks or creamy white (2) (4). Although normally silent, during breeding, the male black goshawk makes a loud keeyp, and the female, a short kek (5).
Large black and white Accipiter hawk that occurs across the Afrotropics. Prefers habitats where trees are found but will hunt in open areas as well. Adapts to artificial forests (plantations) as well. Prefers the still hunting methods and preys mainly on birds.