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Bat Hawk
Macheiramphus alcinus

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Unknown.

Other Names: Bat-eating Buzzard, Bat-eating Hawk, Bat-hawk, Bat Kite, Bat Pern, Machaeramphus alcinus.

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Macheiramphus alcinus
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Distribution: Afrotropical/Australasian/Indomalayan. Three disjunct populations, including (1) sub-Saharan Africa and MADAGASCAR, (2) the Malay Peninsula, SUMATRA, BORNEO, and SULAWESI, and (3) NEW GUINEA. more....

Subspecies: 3 races. M. a. alcinus: Southern MYANMAR, western THAILAND, Malay Peninsula, SUMATRA, BORNEO, and north-central SULAWESI; M. a. andersoni: SENEGAL east to ETHIOPIA and south to SOUTH AFRICA; MADAGASCAR; M. a. papuanus: Eastern NEW GUINEA. more....

Taxonomy: Formerly placed in the Falconidae. The generic name was formerly spelled "Machaeramphus," but the spelling used here has priority.

Movements: Irruptive or local migrant (Bildstein 2006). Probably mostly sedentary, but its movements are poorly known. In southwestern Madagascar, the sudden winter appearance of individuals suggested local movements or migration (Langrand 1990). In portions of Liberia, it appears during the dry season from October to May, perhaps to breed (Gatter 1997), and Elgood (1994) reported a northward shift during the rains in Nigeria. It is also said to undergo local or dispersive movements in Malawi (Dowsett-Lemaire and Dowsett 2006).

Habitat and Habits: In Africa, it occurs in clear spaces in moist wooded and forest edge habitats, often around watered areas, gorges, cities, villages, and exotic tree plantations (eucalyptus), and is absent from arid areas and dense forest. On the Malay Peninsula, it is found in mature and disturbed forest (providing some tall cover remains), and in parks at plains level and on slopes (Wells 1999). In New Guinea, it is found in partly cleared or disturbed forest and gallery forest, where it perches in remnant trees in clearings, or at forest edges, sometimes close to a well used road (Coates 1985). It is mostly a lowland species, but reaches high plateaus in southern Africa. Generally spends the day perched immobile and horizontally with eyes closed within the canopy of a tree. Occurs singly or in pairs. It is often indifferent to the presence of humans or noisy vehicles (Coates op cit.). more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds primarily on insectivorous bats, but during the daytime, it may also take insects and birds, including swifts, swiftlets, and swallows. Bats are captured in flight with the feet and swallowed whole. It hunts mostly at dusk, but also on moonlit nights, at dawn, and occasionally during the daylight hours. In Borneo and Malaya, it is found mostly in the vicinity of limestone caves frequented by bats and swiftlets (Coates 1985), but also around suburban street-lighting (Wells 1999). Throughout its range, it is attracted to the vicinity of bat or swallow roosts. Bat Hawks may capture and eat a large number of prey items (up to 11 in 18 minutes!) during the short window of time at dusk when bats are emerging from their roosts. They may secure enough food during this narrow period, often less than a half hour, to satisfy their entire daily requirement (Tarboton 1990). more....

Breeding: Builds a large stick nest, lined with finer twigs and green leaves, which is draped over a high horizontal branch of a tree. Apparently prefers large, pale-barked trees (mainly eucalyptus) for nesting (Harris et al. 2000), and one in Madagascar was in an isolated tree on a hill surrounded by cultivation (Thorstrom and René de Roland 2000). The same nests are used in successive years. Clutch size is usually 1 eggs, somnetimes 2, which are pale bluish-green, often immaculate, but occasionally with brown and purplish-gray markings, and averaging 59.8 x 46.5 mm (Robson 2000). The incubation and nestling periods are 42 and 67 days, respectively (Tarboton 1990), and females do most of the incubation. Both parents feed the young. Pairs may attempt to breed more than once per year (Hartley and Hustler 1993). more....

Conservation: The status of the Bat Hawk is difficult to determine because of its nocturnal habits and tendency to roos in densely foliated trees. It is widespread, but apparently uncommon or rare and difficult to detect in many areas. Harris (2000) suggested that collisions with powerlines may be a potential problem for this nocturnal forager, and its nests may be vulnerable to destruction by high winds. Categorized globally as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International. more....

Important References: 
Black, H.L., G. Howard, and R. Stjernsedt. 1979. Observations on the
  feeding behaviour of the Bat Hawk (Macheiramphus alcinus). Biotropica
Brown, L.H., E.K. Urban, and K. Newman. 1982. The birds of Africa. Vol. 1.
  Academic Press, London.
Eccles, D.H., R.A.C. Jensen, and M.K. Jensen. 1969. Feeding behaviour of
  the Bat Hawk. Ostrich 40:26-27.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Harris, T., A. Kemp, and J. Dunning. 2000. Nesting behaviour of a pair of
  Bat Hawks Macheiramphus alcinus in South Africa, recorded by time-lapse
  video images. Pp. 51-63 in R.D. Chancellor and B.-U. Meyburg (eds.), Raptors
  at risk. World Working Group on Birds of Prey, Berlin, and Hancock House,
  Blaine, WA.
Hartley, R.R. 1995. Notes on the breeding biology and productivity of a
  pair of Bat Hawks in Mutare. Honeyguide 41:6-17.
Hustler, K., and W.R.J. Dean. 2005. Bat Hawk Macheiramphus alcinus. Pp.
  477-478 in P.A.R. Hockey, W.R.J. Dean, and P.G. Ryan (eds.),
  Roberts Birds of Southern Africa. 7th edition. Trustees of the John Voelcker
  Bird Book Fund, Cape Town, South Africa.
Jenkins, A.R. 1997. Bat Hawk. P. 173 in J.A. Harrison et al. (eds.), The
  atlas of South African birds. Volume 1: Non-passerines. BirdLife South
  Africa and Avian Demography Unit, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Kemp, A.S. 1994. Bat Hawk. P. 113 in del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott, and J.
  Sargatal (eds.), Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New World vultures
  to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Middleton, A. 1999. Observations on a Bat Hawk. Honeyguide 45:18.
Tarboton, W.R., and D.G. Allan. 1984. The status and conservation of birds
  of prey in the Transvaal. Transvaal Museum, Pretoria, South Africa.
Thomsett, S. 1981. Some observations on the Bat Hawk Macheiramphus
. Scopus 5:56.
Wells, D.R. 1999. The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula, covering Burma
  and Thailand south of the eleventh parallel, Peninsular Malaysia and
  Singapore. Volume One. Non-passerines. Academic Press, San Diego, CA.

Sites of Interest:
Bat Hawk photos.

Szabo, John

Last modified: 9/11/2010

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2017. Species account: Bat Hawk Macheiramphus alcinus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 20 Feb. 2017

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