Biology

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The bat hawk typically spends the day perched sedately in a tall tree, becoming active for short periods around dusk, and occasionally at dawn, in synchrony with the peak activity of its main prey. Leaving the perch at twilight, this unconventional raptor will patrol open areas where bats are emerging from their roosts or feeding over lakes and rivers (2). The bat hawk hunts on the wing, using its large eyes to pierce the fading light in all directions for a target. With prey sighted, it accelerates rapidly from behind, snatching a bat out the air and swiftly transferring the catch from its talons to its beak. Despite having only a small beak, with the aid of an enormous gape, the bat hawk is able to swallow most of its catches whole in flight (2) (6). Although bats are the main component of its diet, small dusk feeding birds, such as swifts and nightjars, are also caught, as well as large flying insects (2). At the start of the breeding season bat hawks uncharacteristically take to the air during the day to perform impressive courtship displays (2) (6). This involves high speed aerial chases accompanied by tumbling dives, acrobatic rolls, talon touching and high pitched calling (2). The large stick nest is built high up in a pale-barked tree, which probably makes it easier to locate at night. Normally each year just a single egg is laid and incubated by the female, whilst the male does most of the hunting. The chick hatches after around a month and is fed by both parents over a short period just before dark. The young fledge after around 35 to 40 days and do not remain in the vicinity of the nest for very long (2) (6).
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Conservation

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Although there are no known conservation measures in place for the bat hawk, it is listed on Appendix II of CITES which makes it an offence to trade this species without a permit (3).
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Description

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While many predators prey upon bats, none make more of a habit of it than the fittingly named bat hawk (4). Although often appearing completely black in the low light of dusk, this medium-sized bird of prey is dark brown, with white 'eyelids' and small patches of white on the throat and belly (2) (5). It has a pointed crest, large yellow eyes and a deceptively small beak for the size of prey it takes (2) (6). The legs and toes are long and slender and the talons are incredibly sharp. Juveniles are similar in appearance to the adults, but are less dark and more mottled white, particularly on the breast (2).
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Habitat

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Found in a range of habitats wherever there are large numbers of bats, from tropical forest through to open areas near caves (2) (6).
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Range

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The bat hawk has a widespread distribution that includes Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and much of sub-Saharan Africa including Madagascar (2) (6).
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Status

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

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Although there is some evidence of a decline in the bat hawk population in Borneo, its overall population appears to be stable. Consequently, the bat hawk is classified as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List (7).
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Bat hawk

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The Bat Hawk (Macheiramphus alcinus) is a raptor found in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia to New Guinea. It is named for its diet, which consists mainly of bats.[2] It requires open space in which to hunt, but will live anywhere from dense rainforest to semi-arid veld.

Description

The Bat Hawk is a slender, medium-sized bird of prey, usually about 45 cm long. It has long wings and a falcon-like silhouette while in flight. Adults are dark brown or black, with a white patch on the throat and chest, and have a white streak above and below each eye. Juveniles are mottled brown and have more white plumage than adults.

Behaviour

Hunting

Bats are the usual prey of the Bat Hawk, although they may eat small birds, such as swallows, swifts, and nightjars, or even insects. They hunt by chasing their prey at high speeds in flight. 49.3% of their hunts are successful. Bats are captured by the use of small talons, and swallowed whole immediately in flight. Hunting methods may be similar to that of Swainson's Hawk, which makes use of different approach types (Up-stream, Down-stream and cross-stream) and grab directions/body positions (pitch down, pitch up and roll manoeuvres) to capture prey in a swarm.[3] Bat hawks also show very rapid ingestion rates, taking on average 6 seconds for the prey to reach the stomach after capture.[4]

The Bat Hawk is crepuscular and hunts at dusk. They can be observed perching near a cave/bat dwelling prior to dusk emergence.[5] They feed on the wing and swallow their prey whole. This feeding habit has resulted in the evolution of an unusually large gape, the largest of any raptor relative to body size, and is more similar to that of insectivorous birds which feed on the wing such as swallows, swifts and nightjars.[6] The evolution of a large gape is likely due to the selective pressure of a limited feeding time. Since bats only emerge at dusk in swarms, a temporal window of ±30 minutes is allotted for Bat Hawk's to hunt. A large gape allows the hawks to feed extremely rapidly, often with multiple captures per hunting bout.[7]

The crepuscular habits, large gape and in-flight manoeuvrability makes the Bat Hawk well adapted for its choice of prey hunting. This ecological niche is highly exploited by Bat Hawks, making their competition with other diurnal raptors minimal.[4]

Breeding

Courtship involves many aerial displays and stunts. The nest is built with sticks gathered in flight, and is about 90 cm across and 30 cm deep.[8] The female is solely responsible for incubating her clutch. The male often shares food with her. About a month after incubation begins, the eggs hatch, and both parents help to feed their young. 30–45 days after hatching, the young fledge. They leave the nest soon after. Bat hawks time their breeding cycles with those of bats, taking advantage of lethargic pregnant females in order to attain breeding condition, whereas fledglings take advantage of young bats which have recently taken to the air.[9]

Bat hawks breed most years.

Conservation

Due to its large range and relatively stable population, the bat hawk is of least concern.[1] However, localized populations are under threat, and it is listed as Endangered in South Africa.[10]

Etymology

The genus name is from Greek: μαχαιρα makhaira meaning knife; and ῥαμφος rhamphos, bill. The specific epithet alcinus means like an auk, from Linnaeus' genus Alca, which is also a reference to the bat hawk's thin bill.[11]

Taxonomy

The spelling of the genus name is problematic. Charles Lucien Bonaparte described the bat hawk in 1850, naming it Macheiramphus alcinus.[12](pp482–483) Westerman described it in 1851 under the name Machaerhamphus alcinus, and this form was used for over a hundred years because it was believed to have been published in 1848. In 1960 Deignan pointed out that Bonaparte has priority, but in 1979 Amadon claimed that Macheiramphus alcinus is an abandoned name. Brooke and Clancey note that the preservation of a junior synonym requires a special ruling from the ICZN that Amadon didn't obtain; whilst Dickinson argues that Deignan's resurrection of the name in 1960 should stand because it predates the first edition of the Code in 1961.[13][14]

References

  1. ^ a b BirdLife International. (2016). "Macheiramphus alcinus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T22695021A93485278. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22695021A93485278.en. Retrieved 8 September 2020.
  2. ^ Mikula, P., Morelli, F., Lučan, R. K., Jones, D. N., & Tryjanowski, P. (2016). Bats as prey of diurnal birds: a global perspective. Mammal Review.
  3. ^ Brighton, Caroline H; Zusi, Lillias; McGowan, Kathryn A; Kinniry, Morgan; Kloepper, Laura N; Taylor, Graham K (2021-06-04). Quinn, John (ed.). "Aerial attack strategies of hawks hunting bats, and the adaptive benefits of swarming". Behavioral Ecology. 32 (3): 464–476. doi:10.1093/beheco/araa145. ISSN 1045-2249. PMC 8177810. PMID 34104109.
  4. ^ a b Black, H. L.; Howard, G.; Stjernstedt, R. (1979). "Observations on the Feeding Behavior of the Bat Hawk (Macheiromphus alcinus)". Biotropica. 11 (1): 18–21. doi:10.2307/2388165. JSTOR 2388165.
  5. ^ Black, H. L.; Howard, G.; Stjernstedt, R. (1979). "Observations on the Feeding Behavior of the Bat Hawk (Macheiromphus alcinus)". Biotropica. 11 (1): 18–21. doi:10.2307/2388165. ISSN 0006-3606.
  6. ^ Jones, Landon R.; Black, Hal L.; White, Clayton M. (2012). "Evidence for Convergent Evolution in Gape Morphology of the Bat Hawk (Macheiramphus alcinus) with Swifts, Swallows, and Goatsuckers". Biotropica. 44 (3): 386–393. doi:10.1111/j.1744-7429.2011.00812.x. JSTOR 41496010.
  7. ^ Jones, Landon R.; Black, Hal L.; White, Clayton M. (May 2012). "Evidence for Convergent Evolution in Gape Morphology of the Bat Hawk (Macheiramphus alcinus) with Swifts, Swallows, and Goatsuckers: Bat Hawk Gape". Biotropica. 44 (3): 386–393. doi:10.1111/j.1744-7429.2011.00812.x.
  8. ^ The Hawk Conservancy Trust (1996-2007). Bat Hawk. Retrieved April 16, 2007, from http://www.hawk-conservancy.org/priors/bathawk.shtml
  9. ^ Hartley, R; Hustler, K (1993). "A less‐than‐annual breeding cycle in a pair of African Bat Hawks Machaeramphus alcinus". Ibis. 135 (4): 456–458. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.1993.tb02119.x.
  10. ^ https://www.birdlife.org.za/conservation/important-bird-areas/iba-projects-other/blsa-threatened-species-birdlasser-cause
  11. ^ Jobling, James A. (2014). "Key to Scientific Names in Ornithology". Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions. Retrieved 31 October 2014. See entries Machieramphus and alcinus.
  12. ^ Bonaparte, Charles-Lucien (1850). "Revue générale de la classe des oiseaux". Revue et Magasin de Zoologie Pure et Appliquée (in French). 2 (2): 474–492. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  13. ^ Brooke, R. K.; Clancey, P. A. (1981). "The Authorship of the Generic and Specific Names of the Bat Hawk". Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club. 101 (4): 371–372. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  14. ^ Peterson, Alan P. (2013). "Zoonomen Nomenclatural data". Retrieved 28 October 2014.

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Bat hawk: Brief Summary

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The Bat Hawk (Macheiramphus alcinus) is a raptor found in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia to New Guinea. It is named for its diet, which consists mainly of bats. It requires open space in which to hunt, but will live anywhere from dense rainforest to semi-arid veld.

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