The Black Harrier is an endangered bird of prey that is found only in South Africa, Lesotho and Namibia. The IUCN estimates that there are less than a 1000 birds left, and that their population is still declining due to loss of breeding habitat to agriculture, associated pesticides, alien plants and urban development.
Most Black Harriers breed along small streams and wetlands in the coastal and montane heathland of the Western and Eastern Cape during the months of late winter and spring, while outside the breeding season they roam further afield over the arid Karoo and grasslands of the Highveld and as far as the Midlands in Kwazulu-Natal. They form monogamous pairs when breeding (pair-bonds do not last beyond the season) with the male being responsible for defending the pair’s territory. Their nests are small platforms of twigs, leaves and grass built on the gound at the base of a bush or a tuft of grass or sedge, often quite close to the nests of other breeding pairs. Clutches consist of 1-5, usually 3, eggs which are incubated by the female for 5 weeks while the male provides food for her at the nest. The male continues provisioning food to the female and growing chicks for the first few weeks after they hatch. The chicks leave the nest when they’re about 6 weeks old and become fully independent two or three weeks later. Adult Black Harriers have a wingspan of about 1m and females, which are quite a bit larger than males, weigh around half a kilogram.
Black Harriers feed on frogs, birds, reptiles and small mammals like mice caught by flying very low over the ground and dropping hard onto their unsuspecting prey.