Scientific Name:

Macheiramphus alcinus

Population Status:

Least Concern

Body Length:

17 in (43 cm)

Wingspan:

3-4 feet (1-1.3 m)

Weight:

21-23 ounces (600-650 g)

Conservation Projects


What makes a raptor a raptor?

Research Resources

Did you know?

  • The Peregrine Fund is working to protect habitat in Madagascar where Bat Hawks can be found.
  • Bat Hawks are skilled hunters and may capture and eat a large number of prey items – up to 11 in as little as 18 minutes! – during the short period at dusk when bats are emerging from their roosts.
  • Unlike the Orange-breasted Falcon, male and female Bat Hawks are not much different in size.

The Peregrine Fund's Madagascar Project is supporting a student who is doing her research on Bat Hawks in Madagascar. This student recently received her master´s degree while focusing on the nesting ecology of Bat Hawks and is currently pursuing her doctorate.

The Bat Hawk is found in three regions of the world: Sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar, the Malay Peninsula, and New Guinea.

In Africa, the Bat Hawk can be found in open spaces in moist wooded and forest edge habitats, often around watered areas and gorges. It even has been known to live in cities, villages, and in exotic tree plantations (eucalyptus).

On the Malay Peninsula, it is found in mature and disturbed forest where some tall cover remains.

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. It can sometimes be seen close to well-used roads. Though mostly a lowland species, it is sometimes found in high plateaus in southern Africa.

This species spends quite a bit of its time in the vicinity of limestone caves frequented by bats and swiflets, or swallows. It is also frequently seen around suburban street lighting, which bats may sometimes use as hunting grounds by capturing insects drawn to the light.

The Bat Hawk is a lovely, medium-sized hawk that is mostly dark brown or black all over, with the exception of a white patch on its throat and upper breast and its large, bright yellow eyes and pale legs. It also sports a short, black crest.

The Bat Hawk is mostly crepuscular, meaning it is most active at dusk or dawn. During the day, it spends much of its time perched with its eyes closed within the canopy or shade of a tree. It is often undisturbed by the presence of humans or noisy vehicles.

This is not a gregarious species, so it spends most of its time alone or in a pair.

Though widespread, the Bat Hawk is uncommon and hard to detect. As you can imagine, a bird that hunts at dusk or dark and then spends the day roosting in trees with dense foliage would be hard to locate. It follows that birds that are hard to locate are also difficult to study. Despite this, we do know a few things about this hawk.

Though it is categorized as "Least Concern," it still faces many threats. Collisions or electrocutions on power lines may be serious threats for this species. And their nests are vulnerable to destruction by high winds.

As you would expect, the Bat Hawk feeds primarily on bats. During the day, they also may take insects and birds, including swifts and swallows. Bat Hawks, like most raptors, capture their prey with their feet. They will take bats in flight and swallow them whole.

This species hunts mostly at dusk, but also on moonlit nights, at dawn, and occasionally during the daylight hours.

Bat Hawks have to work hard to capture bats during the short period of time that bats are emerging from their roost. Though they have only about a half hour, Bat Hawks can often capture enough prey to satisfy their entire daily requirements.

Bat Hawks build large stick nests that they place high up in trees. Their nests are usually lined with fine twigs and green leaves. They seem to prefer to place their nests in eucalyptus trees, and they will re-use the same nest year after year.

The female lays one (or rarely two) pale blue-green egg. Though the male helps out, the female does most of the incubation. She sits on her eggs to keep them safe and at a good temperature for around 48 days. After the fluffy chicks hatch, they stay in the nest for another 67 days before they are ready to fly. During this time, both parents work hard to feed their young.

Pairs may attempt to breed more than once per year.

The World Center for Birds of Prey offers fun ways to learn about raptors. The visitor center has interactive displays, tours, interesting videos and a children's room with activities from coloring sheets to quizzes to costumes and a touch table for the curious mind. Knowledgeable staff and volunteers are on hand to answer any questions you may have about Bat Hawks or any other bird of prey.


Photos needed! If you are a photographer and would be willing to donate photos of for use on this site, please contact grin@peregrinefund.org