Lizard buzzard (Kaupifalco monogrammicus)

Perched lizard buzzard showing large appearance of head
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Lizard buzzard fact file

Lizard buzzard description

GenusKaupifalco (1)

The small and thickset lizard buzzard is typically seen perched upright and motionless on dead branches and telegraph poles, staring fixedly at the ground below (2) (4). Although from a distance this hawk can be readily confused with several sympatric goshawk species, up close, the grey, black and white colour patterning is highly distinctive (5). Most diagnostic is a vertical black streak over a patch of white on the throat that breaks up the primarily slate grey plumage of the upper-body (2) (4) (6). The chest and wings are mostly grey, except for black flight-feathers, and the belly is closely barred with fine black and white stripes (2) (5). The black tail is edged white, and has a bold white bar crossing it around halfway down (2) (4). In appearance juveniles are very similar to adults, except that the upper-body plumage tends to have a slight buff colouration that is lost during the second year (4)

Buse unibande.
Male weight: 220 - 275 g (2)
Female weight: 248 – 410 g (2)

Lizard buzzard biology

As its name suggests, small reptiles, such as lizards and snakes, form a significant component of the lizard buzzard’s diet (4) (5). However, large insects are an equally important food source and on occasion it will catch other small animals such as rodents, birds and frogs (2) (4). Typically, the lizard buzzard patiently scans the ground from a high perch, sporadically swooping down to snatch prey, which is carried back to the perch or consumed on the spot. When moving from one perch to another, it flies close to the ground in an undulating thrush-like fashion, before ascending sharply to a new vantage point (4) (5).

At the start of the breeding season, which generally coincides with the dry season, pairs persistently call to each other from tree perches, but are not known to perform an aerial courtship display. The nest is built out of sticks, in the main fork or side branch of a wide variety of trees, and between one to three eggs are incubated by the female over a period of around 33 days (4) (5). During this time, the male does most of the hunting and, although normally placid, is extremely aggressive towards other birds in the vicinity of the nest (5). The young fledge after around 40 days but remain dependant on the parents for a similar period of time afterwards (4).


Lizard buzzard range

The lizard buzzard’s distribution extends through most of Sub-Saharan Africa as far south as northeast South Africa, but it is most common in West Africa (4) (7).


Lizard buzzard habitat

Mature broadleaved woodland is the typical habitat of the lizard buzzard, but this species will occur in other areas with good tree cover, such as dense savannah, forest edges, gardens and the wooded margins of rivers (4).


Lizard buzzard status

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

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Lizard buzzard threats

Given that most of its habitat remains intact and its population appears to be stable, the lizard buzzard is not considered to be under any significant threat (7) (8).


Lizard buzzard conservation

There are no known conservation measures in place for the lizard buzzard.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

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The feathers at the end of the wing, involved in flight.
The act of keeping eggs warm so that development is possible.
Applied to species or populations with overlapping geographical ranges.


  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2008)
  2. Kemp, A. and Kemp, M. (2006) Sasol Birds of Prey of Africa and its Islands. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  3. CITES (September, 2008)
  4. Ferguson-Lees, J. and Christie, D.A. (2001) Raptors of the World. Christopher Helm, London.
  5. The Hawk Conservancy Trust (December, 2008)
  6. Newman, K. (2002) Newman's Birds of Southern Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  7. Southern African Birds Atlas Project 2 (December, 2008)
  8. BirdLife International (December, 2008)

Image credit

Perched lizard buzzard showing large appearance of head  
Perched lizard buzzard showing large appearance of head

© Nick Gordon /

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