Lizard Buzzard: Ultimate Guide

The Lizard Buzzard or Kaupifalco Monogrammicus is a bird of prey. Despite its buzzard name, it is more closely related to Accipiter hawks rather than Buteo buzzards.

Belonging to the family Accipitridae, Lizard buzzards breed in tropical Africa, south of the Sahara.

The Lizard buzzard is a bird of open woodland and builds its stick nests in the fork of trees or the crown of a palm tree. These are just a few interesting facts about this fascinating bird but we have many more for you below. 

Continue reading to find out everything you need to know about the Lizard buzzard with our ultimate guide. We will be discussing everything from the bird’s appearance, their eating habits, to what their average lifespan is, and even what their feces look like.

As we said, by the end of this blog, you will be an expert in the Lizard Buzzard.

Appearance

The Lizard buzzard is quite a small, stocky raptor measuring 36cm in length on average. The upper parts of this bird of prey, including its head and breast, are grey. However, there is a vertical black line on the white patch covering their throat.

This is what distinguishes the Lizard buzzard from all other raptors.

Their bellies are white with a fine dark barring while their underwings are white with darker tips. The tail is mostly black but with a white tip as well as a single white band.

Their eyes have a dark, reddish-brown hue to them with an orange-red eye-ring. Their legs are short and stout with a red coloring to match their feet.

And good luck trying to distinguish the males from the females as they both look alike. 

Male vs Female 

As we just mentioned, the males and females of the Lizard buzzard bird of prey have the same colorings and appearance.

Measuring 35 to 37 cm in length with an average wingspan of 80 cm, these birds are not the largest birds of prey. And one way to tell males and females apart is by the size. Males tend to be slightly smaller than females.

Males weigh around 250 g whereas females generally weigh around 300 g. But their heads and breasts, covered in grey feathers, are very similar.

Are they aggressive? 

Remaining in the local area from which they are born and bred, Lizard buzzards can be quite dominant over intruders. However, they have a relatively low attack rate as they passively search for prey that tends to be less energetic.

They rarely catch prey in flight either but they are known to snatch lizards from walls or branches. 

Male Lizard buzzards can become aggressive during the nesting period and they have been known to attack larger birds with a good deal of force. 

What adaptations do they have? 

Lizard buzzards have shorter, quite pointed wings. The ratio of wing length to their body height is around 0.76. This results in a more rapid flight when living in forested areas. This suggests an adaptation to prey they capture in dense vegetation. 

Breeding/reproduction behavior 

Lizard buzzards breed in tropical Africa, south of the Sahara. They are renowned for their stick nests that are built in the crown of a palm tree or the fork of a tree. It’s in these nests where they produce a clutch of usually one to three eggs.

Breeding season takes place between September and November but this can vary according to their range. Nevertheless, breeding generally occurs in the dry season. 

Lizard buzzards mainly breed in woodlands, not exotic plantations as many would believe. These buzzards are monogamous meaning they form pair bonds that are protected or permanent.

Both adults (males and females) build the nest together to form a safe haven for their eggs.

Once the eggs are laid, there is usually a clutch size of 1 to 3 white eggs. These eggs are incubated by the female which takes 32 to 34 days before they hatch.

It is during this time that the male feeds the female but the female Lizard buzzards have been known to leave the nest to hunt themselves.

Both help to feed the chicks for the next 40 days with the males spending most of their time near the nests. Mates then maintain contact by using frequent calls. 

Their calls/sounds 

As with many birds, the Lizard buzzard has a unique call. Nevertheless, they are known as loners and silent birds of prey. But this changes during the breeding season (between September and November) when you can hear these bird’s distinctive whistles.

Try to imagine hearing “Klu, Klu, Klu” or “Kli-oo kluklukluklukluk” and you may be close to their sound. Or far away! This is similar to some sort of song.

These birds also utter a very loud “pee-oh” which is regularly repeated in a series during certain displays or when they want to establish their territory.

Lizard buzzards tend to give these sounds with their bills raised upright and they can sometimes call while they soar in the sky. 

What do they eat? (Diet)

Lizard buzzards predominately feed on small reptiles such as lizards, snakes, and geckos. They are also known to eat small mammals like mice, rabbits, and other rodents. They even hunt small birds which they can easily kill with their very sharp claws. 

When in flight, Lizard buzzards also feed on insects such as wasps, butterflies, bees, and when on the ground, they hunt other insects like ants or locusts. Yummy!

Where do they live? (Habitat)

Lizard Buzzard

These magnificent birds live in savannahs that have wooded areas. They also frequent riparian woodlands and drier savannahs and other clearings. 

Most of these birds dwell in Sub-Saharan Africa, mainly coming from Eritrea, northeastern South Africa. They are a common sight in West Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and northeastern regions of Namibia.

Their most preferred habitat is moist, dense woodland, especially forest edges, miombo woodland, and wooden margins of different rivers.

During winter, you can also find Lizard buzzards in arid thorn bushes in savannah areas of central and eastern Africa. 

What are their nesting habits? 

A Lizard Buzzard’s nest is usually a small platform that is situated in the fork of a tree or the crown of a palm tree. They can be seen at different heights of trees, too. Both adults work on building the nest.

One tends to bring materials while the other builds the rigid structure with sticks. The interior is lined with debris, leaves, and moss and, to protect the nest from intruders, branches and foliage are thick around the exterior. 

How long do they live? (Lifespan) 

Lizard buzzards have an average lifespan of around 9 years. With so many predators in the wild, most are lucky to live as long.

What predators do they have? 

As with most types of buzzards, the Lizard buzzard has a few predators. These include eagles, wildcats, and foxes. Due to their more compact stature, Lizard buzzards are easier prey for larger birds such as eagles.

What are their feathers like? 

Adult males have grey upper parts with a pale face and wind coverts. Their rump is also a pale grey color. The females are very similar to this. Their primary feathers are tipped black and their upper wings are a dark grey. 

The underparts of the Lizard buzzard are grey while their throat is white with a visible vertical black line down its center. Their upper breast is unmarked and grey while their lower breast and belly are both white but with narrow dark grey bars.

Their vent is also a pale grey while their underwings are white with slim dark bars. Their primaries are tipped black. 

The head of these buzzards is grey but, as we mentioned, with a pale face. Their hooked bill is black with a red cere (waxy flesh covering the base of their upper beak). 

Juveniles Lizard buzzards resemble their adult counterparts but these have back and upper wing feathers that are tipped with brown while their underparts are a washed brown color. Their tips and tail feathers are pale as with adults. 

What does their poop look like? 

Like many other bird species, the feces of a Lizard buzzard tends to be a white-colored liquid. We just hope you don’t experience it close up on your shoulders! 

Do they migrate? 

Little is known about the Lizard buzzard’s migrations but they are largely thought to be quite a sedentary species and tend to remain residents of their local areas. 

Conservation status 

There are many Lizard buzzards in the wild so they are not considered a vulnerable species of bird. Their population trends appear stable and their population size remains very large.

However, in some parts of western and southern Africa, dramatic declines of different raptors have been reported.

This is mainly down to the rapid growth in the human population driving overexploitation of land leading to biodiversity loss and the destruction of habitats. 

Fun facts 

Lizard buzzards are not closely related to buzzards at all. They are, in fact, closer to hawks.