Observations and analysis of Ayres’s Hawk-Eagle Hieraaetus ayresii occurrence and behaviour over the Linksfield Ridge, Johannesburg, South Africa
A series of sightings of the Ayres’s Hawk-Eagle (Hieraaetus ayresii) were made over two summers in 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 from a property in Fellside, north-eastern Johannesburg. Sightings of the species were of individual birds in flight over the Linksfield Ridge and Louis Botha Avenue, both located a short distance to the south of the observation location. It is postulated that the combination of an abundance of prey in the form of Rock Doves (Columba livia) that inhabit the built-up urban environment of Louis Botha Avenue in high densities and the presence of a well vegetated (effectively wooded) ridge in close proximity appear to be the factors that draw the species to this particular location within Johannesburg. Although the sighting records did not form part of a dedicated monitoring protocol, the observations of the species were submitted to the SABAP2 project, and these and other records of the species in Johannesburg and Pretoria have been analysed to gain an understanding of the timing of the species’ occurrence within the urban centres of Gauteng. The wider SABAP2 dataset indicates that the species has been most commonly recorded in mid-summer (the months of December and February), with the next highest monthly recording rates being for spring and early summer. Further monitoring and observations for the presence of this species are recommended in areas of suitable habitat within Johannesburg (ridges in close proximity to concentrations of Rock Dove populations) to determine if it favours such location and occurs more widely and commonly than currently understood.
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