Incredibly, the bateleur may spend as much as 80 percent of the day in flight, covering up to 500 kilometres, as it searches for food. Flying relatively low, this species scans the ground for signs of food and, when sighted, it descends in a tight spiral to investigate. It is particularly adept at locating carrion, often patrolling roadsides for roadkill, but it is an opportunistic feeder and quite capable of swooping down on live prey or catching birds in flight. The bateleur’s broad diet consists of mammals, from shrews to small antelopes, and birds, from starlings to large hornbills, as well as reptiles, insects and dead fish (5). When not in flight, the bateleur can be seen perching on branches or standing on the ground with its wings outstretched, absorbing the heat from the sun (6).
The bateleur’s courtship is spectacular, and involves the male diving down upon the female while in flight, and making incredibly loud wing claps, audible over a great distance (5). This courtship behaviour helps to establish strong lifelong, bonds between the breeding pairs (6). The bateleur’s breeding season varies according to location, occurring from September to May in West Africa, December to August in southern Africa and throughout the year in East Africa (5). The pairs establish a territory, which they actively defend from other bateleurs (6), and construct a robust nest from twigs lined with leaves in the fork of a tree, often near flowing water (5). A single egg is laid and incubated by the female for 52 to 59 days while the male guards the nest and brings food (5). Once hatched, the young take between 93 and 194 days to fledge, after which time they are permitted to stay in the pair’s territory for a few months before being driven out (5) (6).