Bat Hawk
Macheiramphus alcinus-color corrected
Range Sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia to New Guinea.
Scientific Classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Aves
Order Accipitriformes
Family Accipitridae
Genus Macheiramphus
Species Macheiramphus alcinus
Conservation Status
Least Concern

The Bat hawk (Macheiramphus alcinus), is a species of bird of prey found in Sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia to New Guinea. It is named for its shi diet, which consists mainly of bats. It requires open space in which to hunt, but will live anywhere from dense rainforest to semi-arid veld.


The spelling of the genus name is problematic. Charles Lucien Bonaparte described the bat hawk in 1850, naming it Macheiramphus alcinus. Westerman described it in 1851 under the name Machaerhamphus alcinus, and this form was used for over a hundred years because it was believed to have been published in 1848. In 1960 Deignan pointed out that Bonaparte has priority, but in 1979 Amadon claimed that Macheiramphus alcinus is an abandoned name. Brooke and Clancey note that the preservation of a junior synonym requires a special ruling from the ICZN that Amadon didn't obtain; whilst Dickinson argues that Deignan's resurrection of the name in 1960 should stand because it predates the first edition of the Code in 1961.


The genus name is from Greek: μαχαιρα makhaira meaning knife; and ῥαμφος rhamphos, bill. The specific epithet alcinus means like an auk, from Linnaeus' genus Alca, which is also a reference to the bat hawk's thin bill.


The bat hawk is a slender, medium-sized bird of prey, usually about 45 cm long. It has long wings and a falcon-like silhouette. Adults are dark brown or black, with a white patch on the throat and chest, and have a white streak above and below each eye. Juveniles are mottled brown and have more white plumage than adults.



Bats are the usual prey of the bat hawk, although they may eat small birds, such as swallows, swifts, and nightjars, or even insects. They hunt by chasing their prey at high speeds in flight. About 49% of their hunts are successful.

The bat hawk is crepuscular and hunts at dusk.


Courtship involves many aerial displays and stunts. The nest is built with sticks gathered in flight, and is about 90 cm across and 30 cm deep. The female is solely responsible for incubating her clutch. The male often shares food with her. About a month after incubation begins, the eggs hatch, and both parents help to feed their young. 30–45 days after hatching, the young fledge. They leave the nest soon after.

Bat hawks breed most years.


Due to its large range and relatively stable population, the bat hawk is of "Least Concern".

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