Of the Cape Peninsula

The Project

The Black Sparrowhawk Project was started in 2000 to monitor the Black Sparrowhawks on the Cape Peninsula. These birds of prey (raptors) are particularly fond of nesting in tall pine and eucalyptus trees, both of which are classed as “alien species” in South Africa. The planned removal of all alien vegetation from the Table Mountain Nature Reserve area on the Peninsula, would, therefore, have a major impact on these birds and that has been the main focus of the project.  As many nesting territories as possible have been identified and the individual birds have been uniquely marked so that each of them could be followed as it goes about its daily life.

The study area runs along the edges of the mountain range that stretches along the length of the Cape Peninsula. This area consists of Fynbos conservation areas, pine plantations, and vineyards which start at the edge of the mountain cliffs, and give way, at lower altitudes, to greenbelts, golf courses, and large leafy gardens which, in turn,  gradually end up in the sprawling suburbs of Cape Town with its cemeteries and recreation areas on the sandy Cape Flats.

For the people working on this project, all volunteers, the journey of discovering the intimate lives of these charismatic birds has been fascinating. Becoming familiar with individual birds and their very varied characters and their adventures over the years has been a privilege for all of us.


7 responses

  1. A pair are nesting in the gum tree opposite my house in The Vines, Constantia. There are two chicks that look as though they are ready to fly.

    November 5, 2014 at 9:05 pm

  2. The chicks are now flying very well and both landed in my garden two evenings ago and I was able to have a close look at them from my living room window. At least one of the parent birds is still with them. They seem to be particularly active in the morning, making a lot of noise and flying from tree to tree.

    November 23, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    • Ann

      I am so happy you alerted us to this nest. I am sure you know that the female is on the nest incubating again.

      August 26, 2015 at 5:48 pm

      • Yes, I saw Margaret here the other day and she told me that the female was incubating. Does this mean that they incubate twice a year, as the last time was in November or are they just earlier than last year?

        August 26, 2015 at 6:15 pm

  3. Ann

    Although they can double brood, (have two batches of chicks in a year), but that happens infrequently. Usually the birds start thinking about breeding and start to court quite early in the year. But a lot can happen from that time to the time they actually have eggs in a nest. The female has to build up enough mass to be able to lay eggs, and as you know this female had been unwell with head mites. Then geese can move into the nest and the birds either have to drive them out, which is not always possible, or wait for the nest to become vacant again. This means that the birds can start courting in March and only hatch young in November.

    August 28, 2015 at 7:06 am

    • Thanks for this reply Ann. So we could possibly see some chicks fairly soon. I’ve noticed the local geese showing an interest in the nest and the sparrowhawks attempting to dive them away.

      August 28, 2015 at 2:11 pm

  4. richard abraham

    i live in pleasant place tokai .3 doors north on the corner of pleasant and birchwood roads is a huge norfolk pine regularly used by i surmise more than one black sparrowhawk . the bird was present only for a short time today and had flown away by the time i got to the adjacent field . they seem to frequent the tree mainly in the mornings and use it as an observation post and to warm up in the morning sun .i spotted him from my bedroom window about 9 .30 am today . my last sighting was about 2 weeks ago when the hawk had caught a dove and was plucking and eating it high in the free .
    i think the bird had 2 silver rings on its legs -one on each leg but difficult to tell as the bird was holding the dove with its foot while plucking eating .im only reporting now as i didnt have your number which was circulated soon after in the t r a newsletter . if you are interested i will try to report whenever they make an appearance . please let me know . it would be good to try to get this info into the local rage as well so more people might respond . good luck with your research .

    August 24, 2016 at 8:17 am

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