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Pacific Baza – Piercing Yellow Eyes Scanning for Prey

Bird Photography with marysejansenart

Crested Hawk performs clever hunting techniques

Pacific Baza Preys On Goliath Stick Insect by  Maryse Jansen
Pacific Baza Preys On Goliath Stick Insect

Piercing yellow eyes in the canopy

Silently a large bird glides through the canopy of the Eucalyptus trees. If I hadn’t been looking up to the tree tops, I would never have known it was there! It sits on a branch for a few moments and then it takes off again. Not in the way you would expect a bird to take off by flapping it’s wings and lifting off of the branch. But by plunging straight down head first with its wings folded! The bird unfolds its wings as it begins to fall and easily glides to the next chosen branch with a few gentle flaps. The piercing yellow eyes and a distinct crest on this hawk-like bird tell me it’s a Pacific Baza!

As I keep watching the bird silently, I notice another one. And another one! The Pacific Baza, also known as the Crested Hawk, roams the forests in eastern and northern Australia. It is predominantly grey in colour and has barred abdomen in a contrasting white and dark brown. The shoulder blades are brown. The bird has broad, rounded wings with white and brown bands, which are clearly visible when it’s flying overhead. The tail is long and squared and has a black tip. The rufous coloured legs lead to grey feet. The difference between male and female birds is minor, but the female is more brown and slightly heavier then the male.

There’s a small group of six roaming the canopy here! These birds are known to meet in small groups of up to 10 birds. This is mostly said to happen outside breeding season or when they are on the move in search of food. Even though Pacific Bazas don’t normally migrate, sometimes adverse weather conditions force them to do so.

Pacific Baza Silhouette by Maryse Jansen
Pacific Baza Silhouette

Aerial acrobatics and other hunting techniques

Those piercing yellow eyes scan the foliage for prey. Pacific Bazas like to feed on large insects, such as grasshoppers, and also on tree frogs. They don’t shy away from taking small rodents, grubs and lizards as well. Interestingly, fruit is also an important part of their diet, which makes these birds omnivores! Their favourite food however, is stick insects!!

They catch their prey from the foliage with their sharp beak. Apart from scanning for prey and then diving down from their perch to capture it, they have also been observed to use some more advanced hunting techniques. One method is to fall onto the foliage to disturb the insects that are hiding in there and make them crawl out into vision. The birds are able to perform some impressive aerial acrobatics, such as dives and somersaults, in order to catch their prey from the leaves or branches. It is also said that they might imitate the calls from tree-frogs to induce the frogs to call back which helps the bird find its prey. Amazing!

Right now, one of the birds has caught a stick insect. And it’s a big one!! A large Goliath Stick Insect is trapped under the bird’s claws and the Baza is pecking away at it under the eye of my camera! A very spectacular sight as you can see in the featured image, and be sure to check out the footage as well in the video at the bottom of this post!

Pacific Baza breeding habits

Currently we are outside breeding season, as this recommences in September and lasts until February. When spring comes, the birds will perform their aerial acrobatic displays not just for the purpose of the hunt, but also to impress the other sex.

Pacific Baza pairs build flimsy stick nests high up in the trees. One to four eggs are incubated by both the male and the female bird on a schedule where they relieve each other very often: on average every two hours. This takes about a month and then the chicks will hatch. They remain in the nest for another month and it takes an additional 22 days before they become fully independent.

If you are interested in purchasing a print of ‘Pacific Baza Preys on Goliath Stick Insect’ or would like to see what the image looks like on the various merchandise products, please head to my shop. If you’d prefer ‘Pacific Baza Silhouette’, click shop here.

Join me on my walk and meet the Pacific Baza in the latest episode of ‘Come for a walk in the Australian Bush’:

Check out some other post about the amazing Australian birdlife here.

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