A very common sight along the quieter roads of Namibia, Botswana and more arid western parts of South Africa, is a slender, mostly grey raptor with a very upright stance perched on a telephone pole or atop a roadside tree or bush. With a length of about 65 cm, grey upperparts and a white rump; pale grey upper breast and head with the rest of the under parts finely barred in white and grey, this is the Southern pale chanting goshawk, proudly surveying its terrain. Closer inspection will show that its eyes are red, its red bill is tipped with black and it perches on long red legs.
In flight the Southern pale chanting goshawk, when seen from below, appears to be white (it is in fact very pale grey) with black primary flight feathers.
The Southern pale chanting goshawk, near-endemic to the southern African region, prefers open semi-desert areas, where the bushes and thorn trees are fairly low. It is usually a somewhat quiet bird, but it has a melodious whistling chant “kleeu-kleeu-kleeu” that has given it both its common name and its scientific name.
This little raptor eats mainly small mammals, lizards and insects, but will also take small birds or small reptiles. It may hunt from a perch, but is often seen on the ground and may run after its prey. Sometimes it will follow smaller mammals, like jackals, to feed on the insects and other suitable prey that is flushed by their passing.
The female Southern pale chanting goshawk might pair up with a single male, or two males and a female may form a polyandrous trio. They build a relatively small cup-shaped nest of sticks, usually well above the ground in an acacia tree, and the female lays a clutch of one or two pale blue or pale green eggs that hatch after an incubation period of about 35 days. It is common for only one youngster to be raised even if two eggs are laid.
The scientific binomial for the Southern pale chanting goshawk is Melierax canorus; Melierax from the Greek for a “melodious hawk”; and canorus from the Latin meaning “to sing”. Someone was certainly impressed with this birds vocalizations!