Cover image of Pale Chanting Goshawk by Ryan Tippett – Carnarvon district, Northern Cape – BirdPix No. 60801
The Pale Chanting Goshawk is a fairly large and conspicuous all-grey raptor.
The overall colouration is ash grey. The underparts, are whitish with fine grey barring while the upperparts are grey and unmarked. Bare skin, including the legs, cere and gape is bright pinkish-red to orange-red, and quite eye-catching. The legs are un-feathered and relatively long
In flight the Pale Chanting Goshawk shows black wing tips and a white rump. The underwings are light grey and the secondaries are pale and finely barred. There is a pale wing panel on the upper wing which is often visible when perched.
The sexes are alike in plumage but they differ in size, the females being noticeably larger than males.
The juveniles are brown above with paler buff-tipped feathers. The head is grey-brown with darker brown streaks. Under parts are blotched and barred in brown and buff. Like the adults, juveniles have a white rump which is most obvious in flight. The legs and bare skin are orangish becoming brighter and redder with age.
The Pale Chanting Goshawk is most likely to be mistaken for the Dark Chanting Goshawk Melierax metabates. They tend to prefer different habitats but their ranges do overlap in the northern parts of the Limpopo province, in eastern and northern Botswana and northern Namibia. The Pale Chanting Goshawk is slightly larger and has paler grey upperparts. The two are best told apart in flight. The Pale Chanting Goshawk has a white rump and a pale panel or window in the upper wing, whereas, the Dark Chanting Goshawk has a grey rump and dark wing panel. Juveniles are harder to tell apart but those of the Pale Chanting Goshawk are a little paler with a white rump and Dark Chanting Goshawk juveniles show a barred or mottled rump.
The Pale Chanting Goshawk is a common species across its distribution. It is Near-endemic to Southern Africa, its range only reaching beyond Southern Africa into south-western Angola.
It is restricted to the western and central regions of Southern Africa, mainly Namibia, Botswana and western South Africa. Its range extends marginally to western Zimbabwe and north-eastern South Africa, especially along the Limpopo Valley.
Pale Chanting Goshawks occur in arid and semi-arid areas, especially the Karoo and Kalahari vegetation types. It is present in parts of the Namib Desert and also inhabits drier woodland and grasslands. It is typically a bird of open scrub and wooded drainage lines. They prefer flat terrain and require areas of open ground with places to perch.
Pale Chanting Goshawks are normally found singly or in pairs, and occasionally in family groups of five or more birds. They are not easily overlooked owing to their habit of perching prominently in the open on trees, bushes, telephone poles, fences and so on. Roadside telephone poles are favoured perches because they are often the tallest vantage points in their habitat and provide easy opportunities for scavenging at road-kills.
Pale Chanting Goshawks spend the vast majority of their time perched. Research has shown that they may spend as much as 75 to 89% of their time sitting. They frequently soar at midday.
Most hunting is done from a perch and they are known to change perch sites frequently. Sometimes forages on foot and may even run after insects and rodents. It has a broad diet and feeds on invertebrates (mainly insects and arachnids), reptiles including snakes, birds up to the size of korhaans and mammals up to the size of hares. They are fond of carrion and regularly feed on road kills. They can sometimes be observed following Honey Badgers and the Yellow Mongoose in the hope of snatching disturbed rodents and insects.
Drinks water only on very hot days.
Breeding takes place mainly during spring and Summer (September to December) when food is most abundant. They may not breed at all during drought periods.
The nest is is a modest stick platform up to 40cm in diameter and is built by both sexes. The bowl of the nest is lined with an odd assortment of items that may include hair, dung, soil clods, bits of animal skin, ostrich feathers, grass, small bird nests and spider webs. They often use man-made items such as string, rope, old rags and bits of plastic when nesting close to roads or human habitation. Nests are most frequently placed in thorn trees but they may also nest on telephone poles in treeless regions.
Females lay one or two plain white to greenish-white eggs per clutch. Incubation duties are performed mostly by the female and the incubation period lasts for around 35 days. The young are fed mostly by the female although the male does most of the hunting at this time.
The pair are active in defence of the nest area and males in particular are quite focused on this during the breeding period. They defend the nest area from other raptors, crows, herons, mongooses and other mammalian predators. They will harass and dive at intruders and sometimes even make contact by striking with the feet.
Young birds remain in the parental territory for up to two years but they are not tolerated at or near the nest during subsequent breeding efforts.
This species text is adapted from the first Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP1), 1997.
The use of photographs by Andrew Keys, Anthony Paton, Dawie De Swardt, Desire Darling, Kyle Finn, Les Underhill, Phillip Nieuwoudt and Vaughan Jessnitz is acknowledged.
Virtual Museum (BirdPix > Search VM > By Scientific or Common Name).
Other common names: Bleeksingvalk (Afrikaans); Zanghavik (Dutch); Autour chanteur (French); Weißbürzel-Singhabicht, Heller Grauflügelhabicht (German); Açor-cantor-pálido (Portuguese).
Recommended citation format: Tippett RM 2023. Pale Chanting Goshawk Melierax canorus. Biodiversity and Development Institute. Available Online at http://thebdi.org/2023/07/21/pale-chanting-goshawk-melierax-canorus/