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Grasshopper Buzzard
Butastur rufipennis

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Stable.

Other Names: Grasshopper Buzzard-hawk, Grasshopper Buzzard-eagle.

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Butastur rufipennis
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Distribution: Afrotropical. SENEGAMBIA east to ETHIOPIA, migrating south to SIERRA LEONE, CAMEROON, northeastern ZAIRE, KENYA, and northern TANZANIA. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic.

Taxonomy: Forms a superspecies with B. teesa, B. liventer, and B. indicus, all of which occur in Asia. Amadon (1982) included Butastur in the sub-buteos, but later removed it from that group (Amadon and Bull 1988) and emphasized its similarity to Kaupifalco. Griffiths (1994) also thought that Butastur and Kaupifalco are sister taxa, based on her study of syringeal morphology. The results of Lerner et al. (2008) from analyses of mitochondrial and DNA genes showed that Butastur forms a monophyletic group that is a buteonine genus and not related to Kaupifalco.

Movements: Partial migrant (Bildstein 2006). Moves south in the dry northern winter (September to March) and north again in summer with the rains (April to September) to breed. In general, ranges between about 9-15° N when breeding, south to 5° N in the dry season, and well south of the equator in eastern Africa. There is much local and even annual variation in distribution and abundance (Kemp and Kemp 1998).

Habitat and Habits: Prefers open, dry thorn savanna for nesting and all types of open habitats during the non-breeding season. Very partial to recently burned areas in Côte d'Ivoire during its non-breeding season (Thiollay 1985). Gregarious when not breeding, and flocks of 6-8 birds may be seen together (Ash and Miskell 1998). more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds mostly on large insects, which it captures on the ground after descending from a perch, or in short, aerial pursuits. Jensen et al. (2008) observed these birds in grasslands in Niger, where they fed almost exclusively on grasshoppers on the ground by either swooping down from treees to grab them on the ground, or by walking and catching the grasshoppers with their feet. Congregates at grass fires or insect emergences (Grimes 1987). more....

Breeding: Builds a substantial stick nest places in a low tree. more....

Conservation: Widespread and sometimes locally abundant in several areas of western Africa, outnumbering all other raptors except Black Kites (Thiollay 2000). Affected in some areas of the Sahel by habitat loss due to overgrazing and possibly by pesticides and drought, but its nomadic habitats permit it to move to better situations and more plentiful prey (Thiollay op cit.). Categorized as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International. more....

Population Estimates: Thiollay (2000) estimated the global population at well over 10,000 pairs.

Important References: 
Brouwer, J., W.C. Mullíe, and P. Souvarian. 2000. Color of downy young and
  notes on breeding and food of the Grasshopper Buzzard Butastur rufipennis.
  Malimbus 22:34-37.
Brown, L.H., E.K. Urban, and K. Newman. 1982. The birds of Africa. Vol. 1.
  Academic Press, London.
Cheke, R.A. 1995. An historical breeding record in Mali and description of
  the young of the Grasshopper Buzzard Butastur rufipennis. Malimbus
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Haas, V., I.G. Marshall, and A.D. Lewis. 1982. Records of the Grasshopper
  Buzzard Butastur rufipennis at Nakuru, Rift Valley, Kenya, and a note on its
  prey. Scopus 6:101-102.
Kemp, A.C. 1994. Grasshopper Buzzard. P. 167 in el Hoyo, J., A. Elliott,
  and J. Sargatal (eds). Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New World
  vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Lerner, H.R.L., M.C. Klaver, and D.P. Mindell. 2008. Molecular
  phylogenetics of the buteonine birds of prey (Accipitridae). Auk
Thiollay, J.-M., and J. Clobert. 1990. Comparative foraging adaptations of
  small raptors in a dense African savanna. Ibis 132:42-57.

Last modified: 9/21/2010

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2022. Species account: Grasshopper Buzzard Butastur rufipennis. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 23 Jan. 2022

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