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Melierax gabar (Gabar goshawk) 

[= Micronisus gabar

Witkruissperwer (Kleinsingvalk) [Afrikaans]; Mamphoko [South Sotho]; Rukodzi (generic name for a small raptor such as falcon or sparrowhawk) [Shona]; Lohheyane (generic term for small hawks) [Swazi]; Xikwhezana [Tsonga]; Phakalane, Segōōtsane (generic terms for some of the smaller raptors) [Tswana]; Gabarhavik [Dutch]; Autour gabar [French]; Gabarhabicht [German]; Gavićo-palrador [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Falconiformes > Family: Accipitridae > Genus: Melierax

Melierax gabar (Gabar goshawk)  Melierax gabar (Gabar goshawk) 
Gabar goshawk. [photo Callie de Wet ©] Gabar goshawk (rare black form), Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park, South Africa. [photo Peet van Schalkwyk ©, see also scienceanimations.com]
Melierax gabar (Gabar goshawk)  Melierax gabar (Gabar goshawk) 

Gabar goshawk juvenile. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]

Gabar goshawk juvenile, Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park, South Africa.

Distribution and habitat

Occurs across sub-Saharan Africa, excluding the lowland forest of the DRC and West Africa. In southern Africa, it is scarce to locally common in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, western Mozambique and South Africa. It generally prefers open woodland, especially dry Acacia savanna and broad-leaved woodland, with miombo (Brachystegia), cluster-leaf (Terminalia) and Mopane (Colosphermum mopane). In the arid Karoo and Namib Desert, it is generally restricted to tree-lined watercourses, but it may also move into cities and towns.

Distribution of Gabar goshawk in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© 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

Movements and migrations

Mainly sedentary, although it may aggregate in the Kruger National Park from March-July.


It mainly eats birds, using a hunting technique it mounts a perch concealed by vegetation. From this vantage point it can spot prey, which it then hawks aerially or ambushes on the ground; it often pursues prey over great distances. It regularly eats nestlings, ripping open nests with its beak and grabbing chicks from within. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Monogamous, territorial solitary nester, performing a courtship display in which the breeding pair chase each other through the trees.
  • The nest (see image below) is built mainly or solely by the female in roughly 2-6 weeks, consisting of a cup of sticks lined with grass, earth, dry leaves, lichen, spider's web, sheep's wool, penduline-tit nests, feathers and rags, while the exterior is decorated with spider web. It is typically placed in an indigenous tree, such as the following:
    • indigenous
      • Acacia
        • A. nigrescens (Knob thorn)
        • A. tortilis (Umbrella thorn)
        • A. erioloba (Camel thorn)
        • A. galpinii (Monkey acacia)
        • A. luederitzii (Kalahari-sand acacia)
        • A. reficiens (Red umbrella thorn)
        • A. burkei (Black monkey thorn)
      • Faidherbia albida (Ana-tree)
      • Combretum imberbe (Leadwood)
      • Colosphermum mopane (Mopane)
      • Terminalia sericea (Silver cluster-leaf)
      • Terminalia prunioides (Purple-pod cluster-leaf)
      • Commiphora pyracanthoides (Firethorn corkwood)
      • Brachystegia spiciformis (Musasa)
      • Burkea africana (Burkea)
    • alien
      • Pinus (pines)
      • Populus (poplars)
      • Schinus molle (Pepper-tree)
Melierax gabar (Gabar goshawk)   

Gabar goshawk feeding its chicks, Nylsvley area, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Egg-laying season is from July-December, peaking from September-November.
  • It lays 2-4 eggs, which are mainly incubated by the female for about 33-38 days.
  • The chicks are are brooded by the female for the first 19-21 days of their lives, while the male gives her food to feed to them. The young leave the nest at about 35-36 days old, becoming fully independent at least one month later.


Not threatened.


  • 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.