Harrier Hawk, African Harrier Hawk or Gymnogene

The Harrier Hawk, African Harrier Hawk, or Gymnogene (Polyboroides typus) is a bird of prey that is related to the harriers. The only other member of the genus is the allopatric Madagascar Harrier Hawk.


The Harrier Hawks is a medium-sized raptor that is about 60-66cm in length.

The upperparts, head, and breast are pale grey. The belly is white with fine dark barring. The broad wings are pale grey with a black trailing edge fringed with a narrow white line. The tail is black with a single broad white band. There is a bare facial patch of variable color.

Males and females look alike, but young birds have pale brown instead of grey, and dark brown replacing black.

Breeding / Nesting

It breeds in most of Africa south of the Sahara.

Its habitat is woodland preferably with palm trees and often near water. It builds a stick nest in the fork of a tree or the crown of a palm tree.

The clutch is one to three eggs.

Harrier Hawk

African Harrier-hawk,
Polyboroides typus, offset reproduction of watercolor

Diet / Feeding

The Harrier Hawks is omnivorous, eating the fruit of the Oil Palm as well as hunting vertebrates.

Its ability to climb, using wings as well as feet, and its long double-jointed legs, enable this bird to raid the hole nests of barbets and woodhoopoes for fledglings.

A comparable leg structure and behavior can be found in the Neotropical Crane Hawk; a case of convergent evolution.

Calls / Vocalizations

The call is a whistled sueee-sueee-sueee.

Harrier Hawk, African
Harrier Hawk or Gymnogene (Polyboroides typus)
Harrier Hawk,
African Harrier Hawk or Gymnogene (Polyboroides typus)
Harrier Hawk,
African Harrier Hawk or Gymnogene (Polyboroides typus)

Birds of PreyHarrier Information and Species ListingHarrier Photo Gallery

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Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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