Gymnogene predation

Gymnogenes (African Harrier-Hawks) have remarkable adaptations to find prey. Their legs can bend partly backwards to get their claws into difficult to reach crevices. They feed on eggs and nestlings of birds, and a variety of other small animals.

Adults are a grey colour, unlike other raptors, with a small head and distinctly coloured face, and large tail. juveniles are brownish, and take two years to reach adult plumage.


Adult Gymnogene


Juvenile Gymnogene

Red-eyed Doves are one of the most common birds around our home. This week an immature Gymnogene searched the trees in neighbouring gardens and found a nestling Red-eyed Dove. It flew to our large oak tree and spent a few hours devouring the nestling. At one point it dropped the dove, and it took a long time before the bird flew down to retrieve it, carrying it in its claws of one foot. In the tree, it continued feeding.

Gymnogene with dove prey


The next day it was back, again feeding on a nestling Red-eyed Dove in our oak. Doves usually have a clutch size of two, so it is very likely that this Gymnogene returned to the same dove nest to take the second chick. This time it did not drop the dove!

Below is a video clip of the Gymnogene feeding on the nestling, firmly held down with a foot, on a high, but broad fork of the oak tree.

Dieter is a qualified Bird Ringer and trainer, registered bird guide, and Weaver expert. Dieter is able to act as a bird guide for day trips in Cape Town, and is able to customise birds tours in South Africa and beyond.