The beautiful jackal buzzard is endemic to the southern part of Africa, and is characterised by its plumage, which is striking and fascinating up close. Its back, legs and part of its under-wing are all black (or nearly black).
Its flight feathers are white when see from below (with the exception of the black tip and detailing), and its chin, throat and chest are a rich red-brown known as rufous. Of course, they do not hatch looking like this. Juveniles can be identified by their mainly brown colouring, with rufous on their underside and tail.
Its name refers to the jackal because its call is similar to that of the black-backed jackal, which is a common resident in the South African countryside. Phonetically, this call is rendered weeah ka-ka-ka.
Range mass: 0.9 – 1.7 kg
Range length: 44 – 55 cm
Range wingspan: 1.2 – 1.4 m.
The jackal buzzard can usually be found in a mountainous environment, or at least one with plenty of hills. Open woodlands, grassy savannahs, semi-desert areas or those dotted with fynbos or Karoo vegetation are all part of the typical habitat of this bird. Interestingly, this raptor can also be found high up in the mountains, as it does not favour long vegetation. So, it is one of the few hunting birds that can live at up to 3 000 feet above sea level.
The jackal buzzard can be found throughout almost the whole of southern Africa, extending from the shores of South Africa up to western and southern Namibia, the south-west of Botswana and parts of Mozambique.
This raptor feeds mainly on small mammals (such as mice, moles and dassies or hyraxes), but it is also known to feast on lizards, snakes, smaller birds and even road-kill and other carcasses, when necessary. When hunting, it will usually sit on some sort of perch and wait for prey; then descend on the victim quickly and efficiently.
A breeding pair can often be seen engaging in an impressive aerial display that is rather noisy. This does not only occur during their breeding season, but can be noted all year round. The jackal buzzard is, generally speaking, monogamous.
The two members of a breeding pair will communicate with one another with a series of noisy vocalisations. Females tend to have a deeper voice than males.
The large nest is built by the male and female bird months before the actual laying of the eggs; using a variety of thin branches, grasses, leaves and lichen. For the safety of the chicks, these birds choose perches that are about halfway up a cliff face or mountain side, or in the large fork of a tree.
Two eggs are laid between June and February (although most are laid during the months of July, August and September). The female of the pair is solely responsible for the incubation of the eggs, while the male hunts for food and brings it to her. He continues to do this until the hatched chicks are about two weeks old.
One chick will frequently attack the other, but this does not always lead to its demise.
The chicks will stay in the nest for up to 60 days before attempting their first flight. A mere 10 days later, they are independent of the nest, but may still stick close to their parents for a while longer.
Buzzards usually live to about nine years of age.
The jackal buzzard has no major predators and it is not a threatened species.