African harrier hawk

  • SCIENTIFIC NAME: Polyboroides typus

  • SWAHILI NAME: Tai kumbamti

A creature of forests and savannas, African harrier hawks have also learned to make themselves at home in urban environments and farms. It calls year-round, most frequently four to five hours after sunrise.

African harrier hawk

African harrier hawk



Daily Rhythm




Conservation Status

least concern


.6 - .9 kg


Length:  50-68 Cm
Wingspan: About 120-150 cm

African harrier hawk

Trivia Question

Why can African harrier hawks find prey in tree cavities?


Double-jointed legs give African harrier hawks the flexibility they need to reach inside cavities.

Social Structure

African harrier hawks are solitary birds that soar gracefully over woodlands.


African harrier hawks call with a loud “wah-wah-wah,” but when they are flying they switch to a softer “suweeeeew” whistle.


Adapted for life as a robber, African harrier hawks raid nests for eggs and chicks. They hunt by soaring and by climbing around trees, and sometimes hang upside down from branches while in pursuit of their next meal.


Least concern


Like other raptors, African harrier hawks feed on small animals such as rodents, bats, birds, insects, amphibians, and chicks. A specialist at raiding nests for eggs, it also uses its compressed bill and unusual double-jointed legs to investigate rocks, tree crevices, and riverbanks for likely prey.


Their courtship blush is clearly visible because these birds have no feathers on their faces. Pairs use sticks to build a large nest in a tree or a suitable ledge or cliff, and line the nest with leaves. While more than one egg can be produced, there is fierce competition among hatchings, and older chicks often kill younger siblings.

Population in Kenya

The African harrier hawk is found mostly in the western and southern part of Kenya.

Range & Habitat

African harrier hawks are found in sub-Saharan Africa.

It frequents forests, savannas, steppes, and riverbanks, but prefers edge habitat to deep forest.

Did you know?

The bare facial patch can change color; it is often bright yellow, and it turns red not only during courtship, but also during displays of aggression.