The Gabar Goshawk, a sub-Saharan predator that eats dozens of bird species and their young, is one of the most efficiently lethal raptors of Africa.
By Rex Graham
One observer watched one adult perch above a Laughing Dove nest in southern Africa, swoop and grab an unattended 5-day-old chick and fly off with it. It’s a testament to its highly efficient hunting style.
Birders who venture into the bush of South Africa often see this species in areas too dry for most other goshawks and hawks.
Gabar Goshawk Hot Pursuit Predator
A Gabar Goshawk hunting in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania impressed ornithologist H.N. Kluijver with its ability to seize a barbet. “The barbet flew around and through the trees with many sharp quick turns, both horizontally and vertically,” Kluijver wrote in the journal Ardea in 1966.
“Several times it tried to escape into the densest parts of the crowns of the flat-topped acacias but was pursued very closely. The raptor managed to follow the sharp turns of the barbet with remarkable speed of reaction and kept up with its prey on wing and on foot in the tree.
After a pursuit which lasted about 1.5 minutes the barbet was caught in the top of an acacia. “A piercing cry was heard and all was over,” he wrote.
The Goshawk’s hunting efficiency rises from 0.2 kills per hunt as a juvenile to 1.45 kills per hunt as an adult. They like thick cover and open savannah, and will rip apart weaver nests to obtain their contents. Scientists in Kenya watched a goshawk flush a small bat from its roost in a tree, catch it in mid-air, fly off with its screaming dinner and quickly consume it.
The Handbook of Birds of the World reported the exploits of a Gabar Goshawk that had been trained by a falconer. The bird killed Crested Barbets, Common Buttonquail, 27 other species of birds, a shrew and a bush squirrel.
Desert-dwelling birds like the Gabar Goshawk have evolved a variety of ways to conserve water beyond simply recovering more in their urine and feces than mammals. Their high-meat diet guarantees an ample supply of water in the driest desert environments. When they eat, they exude a salty fluid from their nostrils, or nares. Hawks, eagles and Old World Vultures in the Accipitridae Family also get rid of excess salt this way to conserve water.
Goshawk Waterhole Smorgasbord
The Goshawk is well known to frequent waterholes as smorgasbords, picking off thirsty birds up to the size of the Helmeted Guineafowl. Simon Thomsett, a Kenyan raptor specialist, described the bird’s exploits at a watering spot in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana during a 2009 raptor expedition.
“A Shikra [a small Accipiter] flew in and made a fast kill,” Simon Thomsett wrote in his blog. “A couple of Pale Chanting Goshawks also made an appearance, though it was the many Gabar Goshawks that kept us entertained, constantly flying across the water from bush to bush, often catching something on the way, then chasing each other around trying to pirate the food from the successful hunter.”