Bat Hawk

06th February 2012
While I was in the North Luangwa National Park recently, we went out to have a look at a large nest that had been seen in a Brachystegia. The finder of the nest had reported seeing a pair of Bat Hawks nearby, and concluded that they had constructed the nest. We consulted one of our field guides which said that Bat Hawks - a medium-sized raptor which feed largely on bats in the evening and at night - build a large nest in a secluded fork, high in a tree. This nest appeared to be anything but......

However, we persisted and soon we found both adult Bat Hawks sitting high in the branches. It was a windy afternoon, so we suspected that one or other bird would return to the nest to protect the egg (if there was one?) from the oncoming storm.

But as the winds built up and the adults showed no sign of returning, we decided to head home. This was perhaps what the adults had been waiting for as the adults began circling around us; perhaps our presence was preventing them returning to the nest. Bat Hawks have a very large gape (visible in the photograph) which allows them to catch bats with their talons and then eat them whole.

The following day, we passed the site again and found a chick sitting on the branch next to the nest. As we got closer, it looked like it would fly away (dropping its head as if to take off) but seemed reluctant to take the plunge! It's plumage still shows some downy feathers but even so, it should be able to fly - perhaps it has not yet mastered the art.

So as not to disturb it, I took a couple of quick photos and we left it to contemplate the long drop to the ground.

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