copyright: Keith Blomerley
In common with many other members of its genus, the Jackal Buzzard is variable in its colouration. The South African race (Buteo rufofuscus rufofuscus) is almost black above with some white flecks. Its upper-tail coverts and tail are chestnut, with a dark subterminal bar in some individuals. Primary flight feathers are black vaying to ash grey, secondaries off white, both barred with black. Below the chin and around the throat are white, with some black spots on side of breast and throat. The rest of the under side, including the under-wing coverts, are rufous-white to rich rufous, with some black mottlings. The under side of the wing quills is white, contrasting strongly with body and coverts, tipped with black, forming a dark trailing edge to the wing, and barred black on the inner webs of the secondaries. The eyes are reddish brown, the cere and feet yellow.
The adult plumage is acquired by a series of moults starting at about nine months with wing and tail quills, continuing with contour feathers from twelve months. The first moult is complete at eighteen to twenty months, but the full adult plumage is not acquired for two-and-a-half to three years. In the course of these moults the upper side darkens, the tail loses its bars, and the under side becomes more chestnut with fewer dark markings.
Main differences in the other races are:
Buteo rufofuscus augur of East Africa is white below, including wing coverts, with dark spots on sides of throat and upper breast.
There is a melanistic form of Buteo rufofuscus augur. It is all black, except for grey and black barred wing quills and a chestnut tail. About 10% are melanistic, but the proportion rises in forested areas with high rainfall to as much as 50% in some areas.
Buteo rufofuscus archeri, in Somalia, is slightly smaller, has more chestnut in the feathers of the upper parts, and in adult plumage has the throat white with black on the sides, with the rest of the under side rich chestnut. Immatures have a white under side and a barred tail, and the plain chestnut tail is acquired before the chestnut of the under side of the body.
Found in open savannah, forest, and plains country, generally at altitudes of 3,000 to 17,000 feet (most common at about 6,000 feet). Usually a bird of mountainous country, it is also found in open plains, if there are hills or escarpments nearby, and in forested areas with nearby cultivation. In Somalia it is entirely a mountain bird, but occurs down to 700 feet. In East Africa it is the commonest bird of prey of its size at above 5,000 feet, being particularly numerous in the Rift Valley and adjoining plateaux.
The chestnut or white under parts contrasting strongly with the blackish back; in adult plumage, the chestnut tail are good pointers. In flight the white lining of the quills, with black trailing edge, contrasting in Somali and South African races with chestnut body and under-wing coverts, is diagnostic. In flight it looks a little like a Bateleur Eagle (Terathopius Ecaudatus ) at a distance, canting from side to side, with large wings and short tail, but at close range the body colour at once distinguishes it. General habits and voice help to confirm identification.
Mainly small ground mammals to the size of a mole-rat, but also snakes, lizards, small ground birds like larks and pipits, insects, and road-kill carrion. When hunting it pounces or drops on prey from a perch, or from a hover, and is often unsuccessful; it can make very graceful controlled stoops with wings held high over the back, dropping suddenly on the prey at the last minute.
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence 30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]
The birds carry out noisy aerial display at all times of the year in East Africa. The male soars above the female and gently descends towards her, calling, and she may answer him. Both male and female hold their wings above their backs and trail the feet below them in this descent, and when the male reaches the female she often turns over on her back and touches his claws with hers.
At the onset of the breeding season (which, while generally corresponding with dry weather, is fairly elastic and extends into wet seasons in some areas) mating occurs on trees or on crags. The nest is built on either trees or crags, but in East Africa is normally on trees. Pairs often have more than one nest. The nest is a substantial structure of sticks, up to three feet across and two deep, used year after year, and becoming bulkier with age.
Two eggs are laid, creamy or bluish white, rough and glossless, with sparse streaks and blotches of red-brown and grey or mauve. Incubation is by the female only , and food is brought to her on the nest by the male, or received by her near it; sometimes she leaves the nest to feed herself. The period is around 40 days.
The young are at first helpless and they are brooded closely by the female, but by ten days old she leaves them for considerable periods, though remaining in the vicinity. The male brings prey, and much calling occurs between the parents at this time; the female may receive the prey on the nest, or on a perch, and will sometimes fly to meet the male. The young continue to be fed until well on in the fledging period, up to 40-45 days old, when they are well feathered. At 56-60 days they are able to fly from branch to branch, and at 70 days become independent of the nest. Young birds may then be seen with the adult pair for some time. In South Africa fledging periods are shorter, 46-51 days
It is resident and non-migratory throughout its range, hardly even performing food supply related local movements. It regularly occurs higher than any other bird of prey in East Africa, being seen soaring round the tops of the highest mountains to at least 17,000 feet, and breeding up to 12,000 feet.
- spanwidth min.: 125 cm
- spanwidth max.: 135 cm
- size min.: 55 cm
- size max.: 60 cm
- incubation min.: 38 days
- incubation max.: 42 days
- fledging min.: 45 days
- fledging max.: 55 days
- broods 1
- eggs min.: 2
- eggs max.: 3
- Conservation Status