Village Life masthead
Birding with Nico Myburgh
Cover, Village Life No 33

From Issue No 33

What raptor is that?


Telephone and fencing poles along main roads are very useful lookout and hunting perches for many species of birds of prey. The roads themselves are happy hunting grounds for more birds of prey because of road casualties caused by passing vehicles. They hit rodents, small animals like hares and antelope and also insects like locusts, all of which make easy prey for the birds. Unfortunately vehicles are also responsible for quite a number of casualties amongst the birds.

As many birds only visit South Africa from North Africa, Europe and Asia during the southern summer, the holiday season is a good time to identify birds of prey while driving.

On these pages we show some of the birds that may at times be seen perched on telephone lines or fencing posts along the road. These birds will normally be perched in a vertical position, so the length given is from beak to tail.


The article featured 11 birds, of which 6 are shown here.

Yellow-billed Kite, Milvus migrans parasitus

Yellow-billed Kite

Milvus migrans parasitus


Length: 52 cm

Colour: mainly brown to dark brown with a bright yellow bill. Summer visitor to northern, central and eastern parts, and along the coast to southwestern Cape, a few may overwinter. The related Black Kite (Milvus migrans migrans) has a black beak and occurs mainly in northern and eastern parts of South Africa

Lesser Kestrel, Falco nuamanni
Rock Kestrel, Falco rupicolus
Jackal Buzzard, Buteo rufofuscus
Steppe Buzzard, Buteo vulpinus
Lanner Falcon, Falco biarmicus

Lesser Kestrel

Falco nuamanni


Length: 29 cm

Colour: dark chestnut red with a blackish tail.

A non-breeding summer migrant from Europe and Asia. Concentrated in highveld of Northwest Province, Free State, Limpopo and Eastern Cape, with smaller numbers in south western Cape

Rock Kestrel

Falco rupicolus


Length: 31 cm

Colour: mainly rufous with dark spotting and tail is blue with dark black tip. Permanent resident. Quite common in open areas all over the country, but breeding concentrated in southwest, where it may also occur in urban areas. Breeds on rock ledges


Jackal Buzzard

Buteo rufofuscus


Length: 50 cm

Colour: dark rufous chest, dark abdomen, red tail and dark grey back. Fairly common resident, breeds on rock ledges and in trees. The name jackal buzzard derives from its call which closely resembles the call of the black-backed jackal

Steppe Buzzard

Buteo vulpinus


Length: 50 cm

Colour: varies from dark brown to light brown with light spots and streaks all over. A non-breeding summer migrant from Russia and Europe. Common, except in dry northwest. Deaths may be caused by insect sprays, as they feed on rodents and locusts

Lanner Falcon

Falco biarmicus


Length: 44 cm

Colour: pale grey back with light buff-coloured chest and abdomen; eye-ring yellow, with distinctive black “tear-drop” lines. Wide distribution; fortunately still fairly common resident, but listed as “near-threatened”

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