NAIROBI, KENYA — Standing out on the patio this evening, I was watching sunbirds and bee-eaters when a small hawk zipped in and landed in the neighbor’s tree. I got some marginal photos through the limbs — lucky thing, too, because African raptors confuse the daylights out of me. (Stevenson and Fanshawe’s Birds of East Africa includes over 40 pages on diurnal raptors!)
This photo captured an important field mark: a pale throat with a dark central streak. That (among other things of course) makes this a Lizard Buzzard, Kaupifalco monogrammicus. The Gabar Goshawk is similarly sized and very similarly patterned, but it lacks this throat pattern and has a proportionally longer, differently marked tail.
The bird sat quietly for several minutes while I admired its snazzy appearance. I thought initially that it looked like an Accipiter species, but the proportions were off. In fact, the Lizard Buzzard is in a genus by itself but does belong to a clade containing the accipiters, the harriers, and a handful of other species including the chanting goshawks. Apparently it hunts reptiles and insects by dropping on them from a perch (more info).
- Black Kite, Milvus migrans
- Black Sparrowhawk