Gabar goshawk (Melierax gabar)

Synonyms: Micronisus gabar
French: Autour gabar
GenusMelierax (1)
SizeMale weight: 90 - 173 g (2)
Female weight: 167 - 240 g (2)

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

The gabar goshawk occurs in two very distinct forms that fluctuate in relative abundance across the species’ range. The more common, paler form has largely grey upperparts, conspicuous white and grey barring on the chest, thighs and underwings, a white rump and a dark grey, barred tail (2). In contrast, the slightly rarer form, which accounts on average for approximately 25 percent of the overall population, is almost completely black (2) (4). In both types of adult the eyes are dark, and the long legs and the obvious bare patch of skin around the base of the beak, known as the cere, are red (2) (4) (5). The cere and the legs are yellow in immature gabar goshawks and the plumage is generally browner, with the pale form having less tidy barring on the chest than the adult (2) (4). Adult females are significantly larger than adult males, and weigh around 90 percent more (2).

The gabar goshawk occurs through much of sub-Saharan Africa and southwest Arabia (2)

Typically found in wooded savannah, thornbush and open woodland. It also occurs near some urban areas but is generally absent from alien plantations (2) (6).

The gabar goshawk is generally considered to be sedentary, but immature birds are somewhat nomadic and small migratory movements have been recorded in parts of its range (2) (6). Although often observed alone, pairs are also common, particularly during the breeding season when the male can be seen chasing the female through trees, or calling earnestly from the perch. The small platform nest is typically made from thin twigs and positioned in a vertical fork in the crown of a thorny tree (2). To supplement the nest, the gabar goshawk is known to collect social spiders on their webs, which are then incorporated into the nest. The function of this unusual practice is unclear but the subsequent webs that spread over the nest probably act as camouflage, whilst the spiders may consume arthropods that otherwise would parasitize the chicks (2) (7) (8). The female usually lays two eggs, which are incubated for a little over a month before hatching (2).

Small birds form the bulk of the gabar goshwak’s diet, with small mammals, reptiles and insects also taken on occasion. Prey is typically flushed from trees and caught following an energetic and persistent chase. Alternatively, the gabar goshawk hunts from the perch, swooping down to catch prey off the ground or in flight. Another technique is to rob the nests of colonial birds by clawing its way destructively through the nest top to snatch the nestlings within (2).

Clearance of woodland and thornbush, for agriculture and firewood, is putting localised pressure on the gabar goshawk. Fortunately, this species has a colossal breeding range that stretches over more than 12 million square kilometres and its overall population appears to be stable (2) (9).

The global population of gabar goshawk appears to be in relatively healthy state and not in urgent need of direct conservation measures (6) (9).

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  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)