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African Goshawk

Accipiter tachiro

The African goshawk, Accipiter tachiro, presents a striking figure with its broad wings and elongated tail, characteristic of the Accipiter genus. Adult males exhibit a darker grey plumage on their upperparts compared to the slightly paler females. The underparts are a contrasting white with rufous barring, more vivid in males. Their underwings range from pale rufous to white, while flight feathers and tail can be sooty brown to grey with subtle bars above and white with grey bars below. The species boasts a black bill, greenish-grey cere, yellow eyes, and yellow legs and feet. Juveniles display a brown upper body with white underparts and flanks, marked with bold brown blotches. Females are larger, weighing between 270–510 grams, while males range from 150–340 grams. Wingspan is about 1.7 times the bird's length, measuring 440–570 mm in males and 540–700 mm in females.

Identification Tips

When identifying the African goshawk, look for the grey and rufous plumage, the barred underparts, and the distinctive Accipiter shape. The yellow eyes and legs are also key features, along with the black bill and greenish-grey cere. Juveniles can be distinguished by their brown and white blotched appearance.

Habitat

This goshawk favors forests and dense woodlands, thriving in both lowland and montane regions. It adapts well to riverine and gallery forests, exotic tree plantations, parks, and large gardens. It is comfortable in both moist and dry forests, including isolated patches.

Distribution

The African goshawk's range extends from the Western Cape in South Africa northwards to the southern Democratic Republic of Congo, eastwards through Africa to Somalia and southern Ethiopia, and includes the islands of Mafia, Unguja (Zanzibar), and Pemba.

Behaviour

An adept flier, the African goshawk often soars above the canopy in the morning, engaging in display flights with slow wingbeats and glides, sometimes ascending to great heights. It is an ambush predator, capturing birds up to the size of hornbills or francolins, as well as mammals, lizards, and occasionally invertebrates. Pairs may hunt cooperatively, especially at large prey gatherings. The species is territorial, with courtship involving loud calls and undulating flight, sometimes culminating in a steep dive.

Song & Calls

During display, the African goshawk is quite vocal, emitting a characteristic clicking call every 2–3 seconds, reminiscent of two stones being struck together.

Breeding

The female constructs the nest, a platform of sticks lined with fresh foliage, pine needles, lichen, and mistletoe, often on a branch away from the main trunk or atop an old Hadeda ibis nest. They may also usurp the nest of a little sparrowhawk. Egg-laying occurs from July to December, peaking between September and November. The female incubates the 1–3 eggs for about 35–37 days, with the male providing food. Both parents feed the chicks, which fledge at around 30–35 days old and remain near the nest for an additional six weeks before gaining full independence 1–3 months post-fledging.

Similar Species

The African goshawk may be confused with the Red-chested goshawk, particularly the Central African subspecies, with which it is sometimes considered conspecific.

Diet and Feeding

This goshawk primarily preys on birds, including those as large as hornbills or francolins, but will also take mammals, lizards, and invertebrates. It employs an ambush strategy, perching silently before swooping on its prey, and may also engage in cooperative hunting.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List classifies the African goshawk as Least Concern, indicating a stable population without significant immediate threats to its survival.

African Goshawk Sounds


Recorded by: © 
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African Goshawks on Birda

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