Black-breasted Buzzard Click to enlarge image
The Black-breasted Buzzard is a large dark raptor (bird of prey) with a very short, square-tipped tail. Long feathers on the nape may be raised in a short crest. White 'bull's eye' marks are seen under the wings, which are long and 'fingered' in flight. Image: Sascha Wenninger
creative commons

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    melanosternon
    Genus
    Hamirostra
    Family
    Accipitridae
    Order
    Falconiformes
    Class
    Aves
    Subphylum
    Vertebrata
    Phylum
    Chordata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    50 cm to 60 cm

Black-breasted Buzzards use stones to open eggs by picking up and dropping a stone onto the egg until it breaks.

Identification

The Black-breasted Buzzard is a large dark raptor (bird of prey) with a very short, square-tipped tail. Long feathers on the nape may be raised in a short crest. White 'bull's eye' marks are seen under the wings, which are long and 'fingered' in flight. The breast is sandy-brown in light-phase birds or dark brown and black in the dark-phase. The tail is short and the wings are longer than the tail when the bird is perched. Females are larger than males. They soar high and, when flying low and hunting, often rock or sway from side to side. This species may also be called the Black-breasted Kite.

Habitat

Black-breasted Buzzards are found in lightly timbered plains, open country and tree-lined waterways through inland Australia and in semi-arid or arid regions.

Distribution

The Black-breasted Buzzard is endemic to Australia (found only there), mainly in the north and in semi-arid and arid central regions. It is rare in eastern, southern coastal or near-coastal mainland.



Seasonality

Buzzards are rare migrants to coastal or near coastal areas. They are partially migratory in northern Australia and sedentary in the south east, their movements being related to rainfall.

Feeding and diet

Black-breasted Buzzards soar high and glide low, like a harrier, looking for rabbits, ground birds, lizards and carrion (dead animals). They glide at speed and snatch food from the ground, from trees or in the air.

Communication

Generally silent, but vocal near the nest, with yelps and soft piping.

Breeding behaviours

Black-breasted Buzzards breed throughout their range, but rarely east of about longitude 148 degrees. They may nest at any time when there is plenty of rain and may not breed at all in drought years. The nest is a platform of large, dry sticks, with smaller sticks on top.The shallow saucer is lined with green leaves. It is placed on a strong limb or fork, often in a tree along a waterway, where the Buzzard has a good view. Both parents incubate, brood and feed the young, tearing up food at the nest.

  • Breeding season: August to September in south and centre; May to July in north
  • Clutch size: Two
  • Incubation: 40 days
  • Time in nest: 60 days

Conservation status

Black-breasted Buzzards are widespread but uncommon. Removal of nesting trees may have affected numbers in the east. They are sometimes hit by cars when feeding on road kill.

References

  • Hollands, D. 1984. Eagles, Hawks and Falcons of Australia. Nelson, Melbourne.
  • Marchant, S. and Higgins, P.J. (eds) 1993. Handbook of Australian New Zealand And Antartic Birds Vol. 2: (Raptors To Lapwings). Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
  • Olsen, P. 1995. Australian Birds of Prey: the Biology and Conservation of Raptors. University of New South Wales Press, Sydney.
  • Olsen, P., Crome, F. and Olsen, J. 1993. The Birds of Prey and Ground Birds of Australia. Angus and Robertson, and the National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife, Sydney.
  • Beruldsen, G 2003. Australian Birds: Their Nests and Eggs. Self-published, Queensland.

Black-breasted Buzzard
The nest is a platform of large, dry sticks, with smaller sticks on top.The shallow saucer is lined with green leaves. It is placed on a strong limb or fork, often in a tree along a waterway, where the Buzzard has a good view. Image: Jack Purnell
© Australian Museum