Have you ever had that feeling you were being watched?
This is the African Harrier-hawk. It’s a medium-sized raptor and a regular visitor here. They are omnivorous, eating the fruit of the oil palm but mostly its diet consists of lizards, small birds, insects and rodents.
Its ability to climb, using wings as well as feet, and its long double-jointed legs, enable this bird to raid the nests of cavity-nesters such as barbets and woodhoopoes for eggs and nestlings.
It has been known to prey on introduced species such as feral pigeons, house sparrows and eastern gray squirrels.
The African harrier hawk’s most unusual behavior is that it blushes. Whereas most raptors have feathered faces, this hawk’s face is unfeathered to assist it in probing into holes for food.
Unexpected disturbances, such as a branch snapping, can trigger the face (normally pale yellow) to blush a deep red. Encounters between breeding pairs also result in blushing. I think here it was noticing that Mom were taking photos. 😀
The African harrier-hawk can be found in natural woodland, tree plantations and urban areas and is also known as the gymnogene, which means bare cheeks.
It builds a stick nest in the fork of a tree or the crown of a palm tree. The clutch is one to three eggs.
They are found only in Africa: South Africa, east to Natal, north to Botswana, northern Namibia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, then north to the Sahara Desert.
Although population numbers are unknown, the African harrier hawk is fairly common throughout its entire range and is not currently in danger.
As are all members of the hawk family, the African harrier hawk is protected by law from hunters and is not allowed to be kept without a permit.
The African harrier hawk and the other member of its genus, the Madagascar harrier hawk (Polyboroides radiatus), are both listed in Appendix II of CITES (Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and are not allowed to be exported.