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Birds of Prey of Afrika and its Islands

Birds of Prey of Afrika and its Islands

More than 100 species of diurnal raptor and 40-plus species of owl recorded in Africa
Kemp, A. and M.

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Birds of Prey of Afrika and its Islands

Authors: Alan and Meg Kemp
Illustrator: Peter Hayman
Struik Publishers
Cape Town, 1998
Soft cover, 15x21 cm, 347 pages, throughout colour illustration


This splendidly comprehensive guide profiles each of the more than 100 species of diurnal raptor and 40-plus species of owl recorded on the continent and its adjacent islands, including Madagascar, the Comores, the Mascarenes and the Seychelles.

Almost every species enjoys double-page spread coverage, which comprises a full description of the bird's appearance, its distinctive behaviour, distribution, habitat and status. Superbly executed illustrations and photographs show, in fine detail, the bird at perch and in flight, and the different sex, age-class and plumage forms.

The bird profiles arc colour- and con-coded for quick reference; a summary of key features, a distribution map and a list of similar species arc useful aids to quick identification.

Other elements of the hook include a general introduction to the classification and study of birds of prey, a map and overview of the main habitats in Africa, and a comprehensive series of indexes to the English, scientific, French, German, Spanish and Afrikaans names of each bird.

Example: African Hawk-eagle - Hieraaetus spilogaster

At perch: Tall, slender eagle with long tail reaching well below wing tips. Black above and white below, with obvious black streaking on the breast and long, white, feathered lugs. Yellow eye looks fierce within the black cap. Juvenile dark brown above and chestnut with dark streaks below, the rufous eyebrow and checks, brown eve and pale cere most notable at close range.

In flight: Pale primary "windows" most obvious, together with heavily spotted wing coverts and broad, black trailing edge to wing and tail. Juvenile with chestnut underparts, the coverts edged in black. A long-winged, long-tailed eagle with narrow wing base, broad, bulging secondaries and rounded tips. Fast, agile flier with fast, deep wingbeats, like a very large goshawk.

Distinctive Behaviour: Secretive. Adults usually seen in pairs, most often when perched on a protruding dead branch, soaring high overhead or making low, aerial searches. The main prey is gamebirds and small mammals, taken from the ground or in clashing aerial pursuit. Builds a notably large stick-nest in a tall tree, often along well-wooded river hanks.

Adult: Black above, including crown and ear coverts. Below white, including throat and foreneck, with bold black stripes on upper breast, underwing coverts and flanks. Legs and vent white. Flight feathers and tail black above, below white with broad, black tips. Primaries have broad, white bases above, secondaries and tail have narrow, pale grey bars above and below. Bill
black; eyes deep yellow; cere pale yellow; long, slender, bare feet pale greenish-yellow. Female more heavily streaked below and about 4' larger (male 1.150-1.300 g, female 1.444-1.640 g).

Juvenile: Dark brown above, with pale rufous and white bars on feather bases often showing on wing coverts and scapulars. Eyebrows, cars, throat, underparts and underwing coverts rufous, with dark brown streaks on breast and coverts. Wing and tail patterns dull version of adult plumage with barring much more obvious and without the broad trailing edges. Greater underwing coverts distinct black. Attains adult plumage by 3 years of age.

Distribution, habitat and status: Wide spread throughout sub-Saharan Africa except for areas of extensive lowland forest and treeless desert. Extends into arid scrub where there are trees
along watercourses, but most common in open woodland and savanna bushveld.

Similar species: Most resembles the smaller, stockier Ayres's Hawk-eagle (p.100) ((rested; adult more heavily streaked below with black head, or paler grey with extensive white markings; wings and tail heavily barred; lacks pale 'windows' at base of primaries; lags spotted; juvenile has pale brown scaling above, rufous head and neck with black crest, paler rufous and less streaked below yellow eye). Similar in colour to much smaller Black Sparrowhawk (p.180) (hare yellow legs; adult has black bib and thighs, unmarked white (or all-black) breast, deep red eve; juvenile has grey-brown eves; darker rufous thighs).

Illustration above:

Black above, below white with obvious black streaks. Long, white, feathered legs. In flight, large white primary “windows” and dark coverts. Broad black trailing edge to wings and long tail. Yellow eye. Juvenile dark brown above, below chestnut with dark brown streaks, eye brown. Large (about 55 cm tall, 142 cm wingspan).

Most similar species: Ayres's Hawk-eagle, Black Sparrowhawk