During the summer, I would often see at least one Jackal Buzzard (Buteo rufufuscus) in the area around town – once one perched on a lamp post in the street below our home. This is not surprising as they are endemic to the southern part of Africa. It is a large, heavy bird with striking black, chestnut, and white patterning that makes it stand out from some of the many raptors in the area.
In common with other raptors, it is frequently observed on prominent lookout perches, such as dead trees, fence posts, telephone poles as well as rocks. They sit very still while searching for prey, but tend to take off as soon as a vehicle approaches along the road – and are beautiful to see in flight.
Although I have seen them swooping down to catch their prey, today is the first time that I have seen one on the ground from only a short distance away.
Jackal Buzzards are known to feed on small mammals up to the size of a hare, as well as on lizards, snakes, and smaller birds. When one flew low over my garden earlier this year the birds disappeared into the trees and shrubbery in a flash – and didn’t make a sound! They are known to scavenge on carrion too when food is scarce. This one is feeding on a Scrub Hare that must have been killed by a passing vehicle during the night.
I imagine is was very hungry, for it didn’t move when the vehicle stopped and allowed me to observe it for several minutes, during which time I noticed its mate flying low overhead.
Based on its size, I think this is a young Jackal Buzzard (Buteo rufofuscus). However, as you can see, this particular bird was not being particularly co-operative when I stopped to check. That it was perching against a bright sky didn’t help either! Jackal Buzzards are endemic to South Africa and, as I have recorded several of them in the area over the past few months, I think it is safe to assume this one’s identity. Unfortunately, I was unable to identify the predominantly rufous chest band on this individual.
Juvenile Jackal Buzzards tend to be mostly brown in colour, with rufous on their underside and tail. This one’s tail shows the characteristic rufous colouring.
The yellow legs and feet can be clearly seen.
Readers unfamiliar with this bird may be interested to know that its name comes from the loud yelping calls it makes, which are similar in sound to those of the Black-backed Jackal, pictured below.
Jackal Buzzards hunt from the air and can often be seen perching on fence posts or electricity poles.
Apart from consulting several bird books, I have found these sites useful:
The tally of birds seen in our garden over the year stands at 72 different species – the same as last year. I have reported a few times on the ups and downs of the Lesser-striped Swallows, the first on my list this year. So far this summer they have not had good fortune as their newly completed mud nest broke soon after completion and they have not returned to repair it. Perhaps they have really given up this time and found a better place to build. There are plenty of them around though and they, along with the White-rumped Swifts, wheel and dart about the sky in the late afternoons hawking insects and twittering from afar.
A Jackal Buzzard is the last on my list. We have watched it on several occasions being mobbed by smaller birds as they valiantly try to chase it away. One has regularly been seen sitting on a pole on the narrow road that bypasses the town behind us. It is probably the same one.
For interest I compared this month’s list of birds with that of December last year. Five birds from then have not appeared, while there are eight ‘new’ ones. The most prominent of these is the Knysna Loerie. At least one pair of them seem to have adopted this area as their home territory for we hear and see them almost daily now. Streaky-headed Canaries are seen more often too, happily competing with weavers, doves and sparrows for seed. Feeding among the more common Village- and Cape Weavers this month have been Spectacled Weavers and Southern Masked Weavers.
My December list is:
African Green Pigeon
Black Crow (Cape)
Black Sunbird (Amethyst)
Cape Turtle Dove
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Rock Pigeon (Speckled)
Southern Masked Weaver