This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be small, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
Behaviour The species is widespread (within 15ᵒN to 31ᵒS), with an afro-Malagasy, Indomalayan and fringing north Australasian distribution (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001), but this is fragmented and the species is locally uncommon. Within sub-Saharan Africa, the species is distributed from Senegal, east to Kenya, including central Ethiopia, and as far south as the northern boundary of Namibia and Zimbabwe. Within Southeast Asia, it is found in peninsular Thailand, south Tenasserim, Malaysia, Sumatra, Borneo and southeast New Guinea. Its presence has also been established in Madagascar and north-central Sulawesi, but there are no breeding records for either (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001). In general, the species is considered sedentary, but it may have some migratory movements suggested by its appearance in southwest Madagascar during the southern winter, and in unusual habitats in sub-tropical southern Africa and in northeast tropical Africa (del Hoyo et al., 1994; Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001).
The species is crepuscular, predominantly active in single short periods during dusk (Brown et al., 1982; Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001). It remains at roost on a perch during daylight, then becomes alert at sunset, preening for up to 30 minutes before foraging. Most prey are caught during a 20 minute period at dusk, but some hunting occurs at dawn or at night if bats are active near artificial light sources or in moonlight. The species will patrol areas near the entrance to bat roosts or water bodies, catching prey on the wing and swallowing it whole, although they will also occasionally still-hunt from a perch.
In West Africa, breeding occurs during March-June and October-January, in East Africa between April and August and in Southern Africa during September-December. For the Indomalayan range, breeding occurs during April-September.
Habitat The species occupies a range of habitats up to 2000m that include forest, disturbed forest, towns, and - less frequently - dry bush. The species’ presence is essentially determined by the occurrence of flying prey (particularly bats) that are active at dusk (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001).
Diet The species’ diet is largely composed of small bats (20-75g), birds (including cave-nesting swiftlets in Malaysia and Indonesia, and various swifts, hirundines, nightjars and other groups in Africa), and large insects (Brown et al., 1982; del Hoyo et al., 1994; Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001).
Breeding Site Nest platforms are constructed in the upright forks or outer lateral branches of tall, leafy, emergent trees such as baobab or eucalyptus, and are composed of sticks lined with smaller twigs and occasionally also leaves. It is often faithful to the same site for many years (Brown, et al., 1982). The species has also been known to nest in town trees where bats are often present (Brown et al., 1982; del Hoyo et al., 1994; Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001).
Management Information The species may be declining in Borneo although its status is little known. It is not known to be affected by pesticides, even though their bat prey probably are (del Hoyo et al., 1994).
Nests are vulnerable during high winds (del Hoyo et al., 1994). No other threats documented.
Brown, L. H.; Urban, E. K.; Newman, K. 1982. The birds of Africa vol I. Academic Press, London.
del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. 1994. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Ferguson-Lees, J.; Christie, D. A. 2001. Raptors of the world. Christopher Helm, London.
Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species
Text account compilers
BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Macheiramphus alcinus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/04/2015. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2015) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/04/2015.
This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.
To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife
To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.
Additional resources for this species
|Current IUCN Red List category||Least Concern|
|Family||Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles)|
|Species name author||Westermann, 1851|
|Population size||670-6700 mature individuals|
|Distribution size (breeding/resident)||12,700,000 km2|
|Links to further information|
- Additional Information on this species|
- Projected distributions under climate change