Bat Hawk: The Ultimate Guide

Bat hawks have the scientific name Macheiramphus Alcinus. They are a raptor that is found in a specific corner of the globe. They are a unique and intriguing avian species with a lot of interesting and unique traits. 

Today, we will tell you all you need to know about the Bat Hawk.


Adult Bat Hawks are a brown-black color all over, the only exception being a white spot just above and just below their eye. The center of their chest and throat are also white, with a broad black median streak. 

These adults have brilliant yellow eyes, their legs and their feet are typically a pale blue-grey color and the cere black. 

Their young are typically more brown and mottled than the adults, they will typically have paler colors on the bases of their tail feathers too, and will also typically have more white on their breast. 

Male Vs Female 

When it comes to raptor types of birds, you cannot tell them apart by color like you can with many other types of birds.

With other types of hawk, you can usually tell their gender by size, as female hawks are traditionally larger than males, however this is not the case with bat hawks, as they are usually the same size. 

When you are trying to tell a male bat hawk from a female bat hawk, the only real way you are going to be able to tell what their gender is, would be to look at their anatomy or their breeding behavior.

There is simply no other way to be able to tell the difference between a male and a female bat hawk. 

Are They Aggressive?

Traditionally, bat hawks are not aggressive, not to people anyway. They are rather quiet birds, generally keeping to themselves. 

They are often only active at night, aside in the breeding season. However, as they are primarily active at night, and they tend to only hunt and stay high up for a majority of their activities, they are a bit out of the way from humans and therefore, have no real aggression toward people.

They can pose a threat to small animals though, they are birds of prey after all. 

What Adaptations Do They Have? 

The biggest adaptations that bat hawks have is in their hunting behavior. Bats are their traditional prey.

They hunt by chasing their prey at high speeds, it is clear they have adapted to this way of hunting and the specifics of their prey as they have a success rate of nearly 50% in their hunts.

They capture the bats by the use of the petite talons, and they swallow them whole immediately, while still in flight. Unlike other similar birds who will usually settle from the air to eat their catch, these birds eat while in flight.

This method of feeding has resulted in an unusually large gape.

Speaking of how they eat during flight, it is clear their bodies have adapted to this as they have an incredible rate of digestion, with their prey reaching their stomach only 6 seconds after being captured. 

Its crepuscular habit, large gape, and in-fight maneuverability shows that the bat hawk has adapted and evolved specifically for the hunting of its particular choice of prey. 

Breeding/ Reproduction Behavior 

If you live somewhere where these birds are common, you might look up in their breeding season and see a great deal of aerial chasing. Stunts such as lapwing flying, foot-touching, and rolling displays.

Their nuptial flights are performed at high speed and when they come to the nest tree they come in low, fast and sweep dramatically up to a perch. 

 Only the female will incubate the eggs, she will sit close in the day and only flight occasionally. At dusk, she will leave the nest and fly around, often the male will feed her. 

Eggs will incubate for around a month and the chicks will fledge in 35-40 days, they will be fed by both parents. 

Their Calls/ Sounds 

Bat Hawks are not very vocal, especially during the day. However, at dusk and when they are displaying they will make a variety of high-pitched calls, often sounding like ‘ki-ki-ki-ki-kee’ or ‘kwiek-kwiek’.

They are the type of calls you’d expect a bird of much smaller size to make, perhaps sounding weak for a bird of such size. 

What Do They Eat? (Diet) 

Bat hawks are called Bat Hawks because they eat bats. They will usually prey on young and adult bats, typically consuming 11 bats within 18 minutes. Some smaller birds may also be a tasty snack for these birds of prey. They will occasionally find a snack in a swallow or a swift. 

Aside from this they may also hunt insects, usually night jars and other large insects will fall into the belly of the Bat Hawk. 

Where Do They Live? (Habitat)

Bat Hawk

Bat Hawks are traditionally found in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, and New Guinea. They need to have wide open space to hunt in, however, they will happily live anywhere from dense rainforests to semi-arid velds. 

As long as they can hunt, and they have prey available, they will be happy. 

What Are Their Nesting Habits? 

When Bat Hawks build their nests, they will typically build it in the same tree that they rest in during the day. The couple together will build the nest, but the female does most of the work. Twigs will be broken off of dead branches as they fly by, and many will get dropped. 

Their nests are typically high up in the trees, built on large lateral limbs, but it is not uncommon to find them in the middle of the free. These nests are usually 3ft (0.9 meters) across and 1ft (0.3 meters) deep. 

How Long Do They Live? (Lifespan) 

The life span of the birds is not really known. They are rather mysterious birds. Most of the birds of the Accipitridae family, they are a part of live for a year or two. However, the longest living bird of this family is 38 years. 

What Predators Do They Have? 

From what we know, Bat Hawks do not really have any predators. As with any species you can expect there to be competition and fights between rivals of the same species, especially between males during the mating season.

However, due to their lack of land movement and their success, Bat Hawks do not seem to have any regular predators. 

What Are Their Feathers Like? 

Adult Bat Hawks have dark brown to black feathers with a few white spots around their eyes, chest, and throat. Their young, however, have mottled brown feathers with pale colors on the base of their tails, and the feathers on their breast are more white. 

What Does Their Poop Look Like?

Everyone sees white spots and knows it is bird poop. Every bird leaves white in their dung. Bird feces are actually brown, the white and pasty excrement found in it is uric acid, which is equivalent to our urine.

While we excrete waste as urea dissolved in urine, birds excrete it as uric acid. Almost all bird feces are the same, although if you go hunting through it, you may find remnants of the last thing they ate. 

Do They Migrate? 

Bat Hawks do not migrate. They are found in a very limited geographic range in Africa and Asia. In Asia, they are mostly found in the South. This means they typically live in warm and tropical climates.

So they may not have any need to migrate as they are rather close to the equator and thus do not need to migrate into warmer climates during the winter. 

To search for these birds, look in Malaysia, New Guinea, and in the Sub-Saharan regions of Africa. 

Conservation Status

The International Union of Conservation of Nature Red List states that Bat Hawks are a species of the least concern There is no real or major threat to their population right now, and they are not that rare either.

That being said, there are some localized populations that are under threat, and they are listed as being endangered in South Africa. 

Fun Facts

The meaning behind the scientific name

Bat Hawk’s scientific name ‘Macheiramphus Alcuinus’ comes from Greek. ‘Macheiramphus’ comes from two Greek words, ‘makhaira’ which means knife and ‘rhamphos’ which means bill.

Then ‘Alcinus’  which suggests a resemblance to an Auk, which is a bird of the genus Alca. This is a reference to the thin beak of a bat hawk. 

Do they live alone?

Bat Hawks are generally solitary birds. The only time they seek out company is during their breeding season, when they pair up with their mate to produce young. 

How big are Bat Hawks exactly?

Bat Hawks in Sub-Saharan Africa or South Africa can grow up to 17 inches (45 centimeters) in length, often around three times the size of your typical barn swallow. They also have an impressive wingspan, which can extend 3-4 ft (1-1.3 meters).