Macheiramphus alcinus (Bat
Vlermuisvalk [Afrikaans]; Vleermuiswouw [Dutch]; Milan des
chauves-souris [French]; Fledermausaar [German]; Gavião-morcegueiro
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Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves
(birds) > Order: Falconiformes
> Family: Accipitridae
Distribution and habitat
Occurs across sub-Saharan Africa;. in southern Africa it is
generally uncommon to rare in Zimbabwe, northern and eastern Botswana, the Caprivi Strip (Namibia) and Limpopo Province,
and it is a
vagrant to KwaZulu-Natal. It generally prefers low-lying, moist woodland and
valleys of major rivers, provided there are suitable roosting sites for bats,
such as caves, Baobobs (Adansonia digitata) and old mine workings.
Distribution of Bat hawk in southern Africa,
based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas
Animal Demography unit, University of
Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range
from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common).
See here for the latest distribution
from the SABAP2.
Predators and parasites
Nestlings are eaten by
albicollis (White-necked raven)
Movements and migrations
Largely resident, however it is likely that it
moves to lower altitudes in Winter, mimicking similar movements by
It mainly eats small insectivorous bats, doing most of its foraging at dusk when bats become active, usually
in an open space adjacent to cliffs, buildings or large trees. It hawks prey
aerially, catching the animal with its feet then eating it while in flight. In
one hunting session it takes about 5-6, rarely up to 17 bats, consuming about
one every 1-3 minutes. The following food items have been recorded
in its diet:
- fruit bats, although it usually attacks them unsuccessfully
- Monogamous, territorial solitary nester, occasionally performing a display
in which the male pursues the female, who performs aerial acrobatics.
- The nest is built by both sexes, consisting of a large structure of
twigs, lined with green leaves. It is typically placed in the fork of a branch, in a
large white or pale-barked tree. It probably prefers lightly-coloured trees
because they are easier to locate at night.
- Egg-laying season is mainly from August-February, peaking from
September-October, although it may lay eggs at any time of year in urban
- It usually lays one, rarely two eggs, which are mainly incubated by the
female for about 51-53 days.
- The chicks are at first brooded by the female constantly, but after a
few days it stops doing so and instead stands guard near the nest,
intermittently feeding them with bats. The chicks take their first flights
at about 35-40 days old, but they leave the nest at about 67 days old,
becoming fully independent approximately 60 days later.
Near-threatened in South Africa, due to its rarity
and disappearance from former breeding sites. Destruction of woodland impacts
the local bat populations it is dependent on, and it is persecuted by locals
because they believe that it eats chickens, although it has never been observed
Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts
- Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker
Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.