The Chestnut-flanked sparrowhawk (Accipiter castanilius) is a small, poorly understood accipiter from Central and Western Africa. It is a specialized hunter of small vertebrates, and is commonly found in lowland rainforest habitats.

Pic: by Niall Perrins, Tchimpounga, Republic of Congo, October 2013 (via African Affinity Birding)

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Demoiselle cranes (Anthropoides virgo) are avian migrants par excellence. The smallest crane in the world, standing at a mere 76 cm (30 inches), the demoiselle still achieves the most goliath task in the avian world every year. In August and September, tens of thousands of the birds take wing to avoid the icy winters of Central Asia, passing over the Himalayas on their way to the warmer climes of India. The way is arduous, with intense attrition rates from inclement weather and predation by eagles. All the same, they are resilient fliers, capable of traveling hundreds or thousands of miles without needing to land or to eat, and most of the birds surmount this monumental obstacle for years on end.

While some western populations winter in northern Africa instead, it is in India that the demoiselle is best known. In fact, the people of Rajasthan, who call the demoiselle the koonj, revere the crane for its historic place in Indian literature and mythology. Demoiselles typically mate for life in monogamous pairs, and care for hatchlings for about two months until they fledge. Unlike most cranes, the demoiselle is not a bird of the wetlands, instead preferring upland regions, where it feeds upon a wide array of both plant and animal matter.

Photo: by Sumeet Moghe (at Wikimedia Commons), at Tal Chappar, Churu, Rajasthan, 1 February 2014.

The Bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus) is a striking eagle which ranges widely across Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as the far southwest of Yemen and Saudi Arabia. So-named for the French bateleur, ‘street performer’, for the way its wings recall a balancer’s pole in flight. With a wingspan of as much as 1.8 meters (6 ft, 1 in.), the bateleur is a proficient hunter, its preferred prey being the avifauna of its native veld, but it may also seek out carrion.

Female bateleurs are tawny in color, in contrast to the black-and-red raiment of males. The bateleur is estimated to number in the tens of thousands, but populations across its range are in a marked decline due to accidental deaths from pesticide, and from hunting. It is classified by the IUCN as Near Threatened.

Photo: by ‘cyrusbulsara’ (at Wikimedia Commons), San Diego Zoo, 7 November 2009.

Black Baza (Aviceda leuphotes) by Johnson

The Black Baza is a baza (genus Aviceda), a small group of accipitrid birds of prey. In contrast to other raptors, who tend to have fairly sleek and aerodynamic forms, bazas are a little shorter, snout-to-tail wise, and more “plump” looking. This has earned them a second common name, cuckoo-hawk. Black Bazas grow to about 35 cm in length, flying with a crow-like stroke, often in small flocks. Their favored prey are insects.

The Black Baza is a Least Concern species.

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The African hobby (Falco cuvierii) is a small, long-winged falcon with a distinctive dark coloration. It is a common, Least Concern species which ranges throughout most of Sub-Saharan Africa. Their most common prey are large insects, but during the breeding season they will also take birds, especially finches and swallows.

Pic: by Wilna Steenkamp, Mozambique (via Reach Africa)

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