The adult South African jackal buzzard is strikingly plumaged. It is almost black above with a rufous tail. The primary flight feathers are blackish and the secondaries off-white, both barred with black. Below the chin and around the throat is mainly chestnut, and the rest of the underparts and the underwing coverts are rich rufous. The flight feathers from below are white, tipped with black to form a dark trailing edge to the wing. The juvenile jackal buzzard is mainly brown above and rufous brown below and on the tail.
Habitat and Distribution
This is a species of mountains, and adjacent savanna and grassland. It is resident and non-migratory throughout its range.
The diet of the jackal buzzard is mainly small ground mammals, but snakes, lizards, small ground birds, insects, and road-kill are also taken. Typically, the raptor drops on its prey from a perch or hover.
Pairs have noisy aerial displays, including outside the breeding season. The large (up to 1 m wide) stick nest is built in a tree or on a crag, and is often reused and enlarged in subsequent seasons. Two creamy or bluish white eggs are laid and incubated by the female only, although food is brought to her on the nest by the male. The eggs hatch in about 40 days, and after a further 56?60 days they can attempt flight. At 70 days they become independent of the nest, but young birds may then be seen with the adult pair for some time.
Calls and Songs
The jackal buzzard has a weeah ka-ka-ka call like that of black-backed jackal, hence its name. It is also reminiscent of the call of the American red-tailed hawk.