Animal Spotlight: The Gabar Goshawk

by Sandy Salle on December 9, 2009

Adult and young gabar goshawk

Adult and young gabar goshawk

Africa has many different types of birds of prey; each species fills a different niche in the diverse habitats. The Gabar Goshawk is a very interesting member of these avian predators. Living in woodlands and thorn scrub the Gabar has a range across much of Africa. Feeding on small mammals, snakes and songbirds, the Gabar is a very aggressive hunter flushing its prey and chasing it aggressively through the scrub and undergrowth.

The birds pair for life and build a nest is typically made from thin twigs and positioned in a vertical fork in the crown of a thorny tree. 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. The female usually lays two eggs, which are incubated for a little over a month before hatching.

Typical of most raptors the male is smaller than the female. This size differences allows the birds to take advantage of a wider range of prey types, the larger female being stronger and heavier and the smaller male being faster and lighter. The female take the role as the larger bird as her size assists her to carry the eggs and defend the nest while the male is out hunting.

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