Black-breasted Buzzard

Hamirostra melanosternon

Black-breasted Buzzards are an uncommon species found in wooded areas in the northern two-thirds of Australia. They are usually seen soaring overhead when they can be identified by their distinctive silhouette – broad and even, with black, deep-fingered wings bordering a large, obvious white patch, a short, plain grey, square-cut tail, and a rufous underbody. Conversely, they may be found on the ground near road kill.

Black-breasted Buzzards feed on birds, mammals, reptiles, large insects and carrion e.g. road-kill. They also feed on the large eggs of ground-nesting birds and are famous for using stones to break emu eggs. They forage by fast transects of an area at moderate height coupled with low, slow quartering flight, or by high soaring. They are agile on the ground and sometimes searches it closely by walking and bounding.

Breeding takes place from June to January, usually between September and December. The nest is a large platform of sticks lined with green leaves. The clutch is usually two, rarely three, with incubation by the female. Sexual maturity is at two years or older.


Males and females are alike except that the female can be twice the weight of the male. The upperparts are black with rufous edging to the feathers. The underparts are pure black with a rufous vent and “trousers”. The nape is also rufous, and when perched the long nape feathers may be raised to show a distinctive crest. Immatures are largely rufous with black streaking over the areas which become black in the adult (chest, abdomen rump and wing feathers.)

Where to find it

Black-breasted Buzzards may be found in arid to semi-arid woodlands, savannas, and open plains in the northern half of South Australia. They require trees for nesting. Their movements are not well-understood. Breeding birds seem to be sedentary unless forced to move by drought.

The species is monotypic (without races).