Working for birds in Africa

Field identification of African Accipiter species and similar looking hawks

p 74-82

The field identification of African Accipiter species and similar-looking hawks presents one the continent's more difficult identification challenges. One obvious problem is the high diversity of lookalike species, many of which overlap widely in distribution and habitat. Another problem is their secretive habits. They rarely allow a leisurely examination, forcing identification based on typically fleeting glimpses of these dashing killers. Reliable identification also requires attention to key relevant details, frequently ignored or inaccurately portrayed in the main field guides and handbooks covering the region. The radically different appearance of adults and juveniles, the presence of all-black melanistic forms in four species, and geographical variation in certain morphological features intensify the challenge. 16 species are covered in this article.

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