African Harrier Hawks over Cape Town City Bowl

Birding opportunities have been limited of late so a calling pair of African Harrier Hawks over the house was welcomed today. I managed to snap a couple of poor images, but it’s clear the bottom bird is a sub-adult.

African Harrier Hawks

Below is a closer image of the sub-adult, which I think was doing most of the calling.

African Harrier Hawk

African Harrier Hawk is certainly more common in and around Cape Town these days. The Atlas of the Birds of the Southwestern Cape (Hockey et al, 1989) has the following to say about the status of this species:

Uncommon resident. breeding July and August. Confined largely to the mountainous areas of the SW Cape. occuring at low densities throughout the main mountain chains. Immatures occasionally wander to the mountains of the Cape Peninsula.

David Winter

44 comments to African Harrier Hawks over Cape Town City Bowl

  • Margaret Maciver

    I seem to be very lucky with Gymnogene lately. Saw a very young juvenile in Tokai Plantation last month, and since then each time I’ve been to Kirstenbosch I had a pair flying over, and while I was driving up the M3 yesterday (Wed 23 June) one was also heading up the M3 towards town :-) Also had one overflying my complex in Tokai a few times and one memorable day, one was sitting on the roof of our complex, and all I got was a blurry photo, as the camera refused to focus on it.

  • African Harrier Hawk is certainly more common these days – I saw another sub-adult last week on Kloof Nek road – perhaps it was the same individual from my post?

  • Dan

    Today I just saw a Harrier Hawk in ad. plumage on Kloof Nek. Saw it first in the Company gardens, but couldn’t get a good look at it. I found this post trying to find other accounts of Gymnogenes in downtown. It perched low in a street tree, flew up onto one of the buildings and looked to be foraging in a pigeon’s nest. Wonder if they’ll soon be common residents.

  • Jon

    Saw a pair this morning in the tree outside our house. (upper Higgovale) Juvenile flew within a few meters of me while up on our roof. Looks like it was getting flying lessons. The adult would fly a distance and call, then the youngster would respond and follow. Very special moment to be so close to them. Will try for pictures and post them if they return.

  • David

    This message from Mark Harrington via Cape Bird Net:

    Hi all

    As my office window at work overlooks the Company gardens in Cape Town (I’m on the 13th floor), I occasionally get to enjoy various eye-level sightings of assorted raptors as they cruise nonchalantly past. Last Friday was a Black Sparrowhawk chasing the pigeons in the gardens (not so nonchalantly though), while the previous week it was a Peregrine that was terrorising the same flock of “rats with wings”. However, I’ve just enjoyed the spectacle of mating African Harrier Hawks! I’ve previously noticed an adult once or twice in the past few weeks, especially in and around one of the large Gums next to the restaurant in the gardens, so I wasn’t overly excited when I noticed it again a few moments ago… Although I don’t always keep a pair of binoculars in my car (I know, I should…), I do have a pair permanently stationed in the office and on closer inspection through the bins, I noticed that its facial skin was flushed pink… No sooner had I thought ‘well that’s interesting’, than a second AHH (equally flushed) flew into the same tree. After only a minute or two, the second bird proceeded to ‘mount’ the first.

    The ‘male’ (at least I presume it was the male…?) then took off, did several wide, lazy circles for my benefit at eye level barely 10 – 15 metres away, whereafter it disappeared in the direction of St George’s cathedral being pursued by several Hartlaub’s gulls. After a few minutes, I looked back to find the female still in position on her original perch, although, interestingly she’d already lost the majority of her pink flush and her facial skin had almost completely reverted to yellow.

    What a way to spend a few minutes over lunch! For the Gymnogenes as well, no doubt…

    All the best.
    Mark Harrington

  • Gordon Currie

    I spotted a gymnogene in de waal park today… saw it (i presume its the same on) last week close to saigon restaurant … for those interested

  • Richard

    Wow! I had a visit from one of these birds yesterday evening, around 6pm and again this morning at 6.15am. It landed on my apartment roof (i live next door to Gardens Shopping Centre) and then on the roof of a house below me. Magnificent bird. Very beautiful bird of prey.

  • Gordon Richardson

    I have been quite fortunate this week, to have 5 separate sightings of (one of more) gymnogenes near my home in Rosmead Ave, Kenilworth (south of Cape Town).

    The first was a male, with bright red facial colouration (breeding), which took me a very long time to ID, since I had never seen that combination before! It spent about 10 mins near me, first soaring in the NW-wind, then perching on a tree. Very special, though too far for photo…

    I have subsequently seen numerous birds (not the same colouration), so they must be resident fairly close. They seem to fly near the large gum trees in our area, and being mobbed by various birds, including crows.

  • Wendy

    Yesterday I saw what I think is an African Harrier Hawk preying on a baby bird in a tree in the carpark of a local shopping centre (Somerset West). The parents of the baby bird were fearless – they were “dive-bombing” the hawk. Even after the hawk took off with the baby, the parents gave chase. It was such a surreal experience seing such an impressive display (from all parties) in the middle of town.

  • Karyn

    We recently saw a stunning adult gymnogene in Constantia greenbelt in November this year.Very fortunate to have had my camera and zoom lens with me and got some amazing photos of it scratching in a tree.

  • We live in Ifafi near Hartbeespoortdam. We have a Harrier hawk feeding a baby in one of our palms. The baby is already flying, and eats by itself. The mother/Father brings food daily.

  • Jorja

    I think I saw a juvenile gymnogene on the road between Bakoven and Camps Bay this morning. It was very dark in colour with a definite gymnogene “face”. He was watching the dassies. Yum breakfast for a gymnogene I am sure!

  • Jenna

    I spotted what appears to be an African Harrier Hawk from the top of my office block in Loop street this morning. Never seen something quite like it. Was typing away at my computer when I heard crows squaking and sea-gulls meuwing loudly. Turns out the hawk was on the edge of the building, presumably near a nest, and was being dive-bombed. Spectacular sight! A regal creature.

  • rich

    Two Harrier Hawks circling in Trovato (Wynberg) today. One landed momentarily on the top of an Oak tree, about 10m away from me. Got a lovely look at it. Beautiful.

  • Thanks Rich. They really are becoming a common site in and around Cape Town these days. Cheers, David.

  • Ricky Carter-Johnson

    Saw a pair around sunset!
    17 Invermark Crescent

  • Leslie

    Parents and juvenile African Harrier Hawks visiting our Oak tree in Higgovale these past few days. This is the 2nd juvenile this pair has raised in 2 years we’ve been here. So awesome to see them within a few meters of us. Our cats are a little nervous when they are around and the squirrels are beside themselves as they lost a little baby to a hawk.

  • Warren

    I saw a pair of Harrier-hawks circling in the air above Bellevue Street (the road from Bacini’s restaurant running up to Kloof Nek) a couple of weeks ago …

    Then just two or three days ago I saw a pair, probably the same pair that I had seen before, swooping over my house and then landing in the trees in the neighbour’s backyard (I live quite close to Kloof Nek myself).

    Such a great thrill to see these magnificent birds.

  • Sebastian

    Saw a big bird of prey on Wale Street. It was perching on the balcony of one of the court house windows and then if flew off down long street (the wrong way). Assuming it was a Harrier Hawk based on this page. I don’t know much about birds! Was quite surreal to see it soaring through the city.

  • Sandy

    We were astounded to have seen an African Harrier Hawk whilst driving down Long street at about 14h00 yesterday. It landed on a light post and then proceeded to land on a few window ledges. Seemed totally at ease in it’s surroundings! Tried t photograph it but it was too quick and too much traffic! Wonderful

  • Sarah

    Saw an adult Gymnogene cruising down Loop street yesterday and using building window sills to perch! Was completely un-phased by the roaring traffic!

  • Anita

    Spotted on tele pole outside our house in Prince st today – calling to partner who we could hear replying in the distance – simply wonderful

  • Damian

    Spotted a African Harrier Hawk just outside my office window in Wale Street, sitting on the air conditioning unit. And there is a pair currently mating in the company gardens in a tree close to the restaurant

  • Marion

    An African Harrier Hawk (Gymnogene) was sitting on a balcony railing opposite my flat in Queen Victoria Street this afternoon – perhaps one from the Company’s Garden. Hooray if they keep the pigeons away!

  • Lee

    We had a sighting (AHH/Gymnogene) this afternoon(about 12), in upper Boston Estate, Bellville. It was a single bird and appeared to be healthy. Not phased by the attention of smaller bird species attempting to intimidate it.

  • Claire Allen

    I work right next to Parliament just off Roeland Street. Nearly spat my coffee out when a beautiful gymnogene landed on the roof next to me. It looked like it was searching under the roofs of the buildings for nesting pigeons. Swallows got very upset..they’re so brave hehe

  • peter grobbelaar

    African harrier nesting in large gum trees 2nd ave near kenilworth station ,see it most days around 5pm.

  • Pete van Heerden

    Fri 03-07-2015 15h10

    Good afternoon all. My office is in the BMW Centre overlooking the Traffic Circle in Adderley Street (2 nd Floor Media House).

    At 11h00 this morning I witnessed a African Harrier Hawk (Gymnogene)crash-land in a Tree outside my office. The Raptor was being chased by about X10 Hartlaub Gull’s and seemed stressed. The gulls insisted on circulating the dense tree, to ensure that it stayed in this position.

    It managed to escape once the commotion has ended and the Gulls having dispersed. Great view at eye-level sitting at my desk.

  • Caroline Horn

    We have had the privilige of a young African Harrier Hawk sleeping in our Palm tree for the last week.This had the birds in the area protesting loudly and even had our cats nervous!Eversdal heights Durbanville

  • Just seen (2.30pm) a single Gynogene over the city bowl at Bellvue Street.
    Beautiful bird.

  • mary farrell

    Saw a juvenile Gymnogene fly over our house in Vermont, hermanus, yesterday and land on a roof across the street from us where it preened and then flew off, only to be seen again a couple of hours later.We last saw one, last year in our garden in Henley on Klip in Midvaal but it was an adult bird. Delighted to see one again.

  • Conrad Kuhne

    Filming at the City Hall CT this week when a Harrier Hawk swooped up onto the roof and off again with a pigeon fledgling in it’s claws!

  • Marcelle

    Saw African Harrier in Hout street this morning at 8am! What a breath taking experience!

  • Gill Gifford

    Saw a gymnogene sitting on a lamppost outside the columns of the Mount Nelson entrance . It flew to it’s nest on the other side of the road ,in a tall gum tree .The branch was virtually over the road and the traffic .A real thrill.

  • Phillip Newmarch

    A Gymnogene visited Maynard St in Gardens yesterday, at about 11am. Perched in a few trees, apparently looking for a good spot, and then flew off, quite low, over the roofs and out of sight.

    See pics at :

  • Sabine

    Adult & juvenile in de Waal park today. How wonderful to see these birds and got 2 wonderful images

  • Kate

    I saw an adult in Zonnebloem yesterday – tearing the bark off an old oak tree to get at grubs. Wonderfully broad wings keeping it balanced as it worked away – totally unfazed by its onlooker!

  • Deborah

    Have a gymnogene in a tree in Zandvlei Lakeside. It’s circling my cats, does anyone know if it might see them as prey.

  • David

    Three African Harrier Hawks circled for some time above Aurora, Durbanville today. One looked immature and was calling continuously.

  • James

    An African Harrier Hawk just landed on the windowsill of my 6th Floor office in central Cape Town. Sat there for a minute or two and then took off and tried to perch on a ledge lower down. I then lost sight of the bird.

  • Jane

    Just saw what looks like a juvenile (still some brown plumage in the adult plumage) on our roof (we have starlings nesting in the eaves and bird was walking along the gutter maybe hunting them?) bordering Rustenburg Girls’ Hogh in Rosebank. Very excited to spot it!

  • Simon

    Immature Gymnogene spotted today on our roof in Rosebank (CT). Is that possible?

  • Cheryl

    We have had a breeding pair in the Eucalyptus trees on Bree St between Church and Wale since early January. We saw the baby in the nest which is above Mink & Trout for the first time last week. It appears that the baby might have flown off because both parents have been calling for it all morning

  • Thanks Cheryl, that’s a great sighting. I work in Loop Street so should really pop up and take a look, but it sounds like I may be a bit late. It’s fantastic having these large raptors in our neighbourhood!

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