Birds | Raptors

The Black-breasted Buzzard (Hamirostra melanosternon) is a large dark coloured raptor and one of the larger birds of prey, endemic to mainland Australia. The females of the species are larger than the males.

With a wingspan of up to 1.5 metres, the wings are long, relative to its body and its very short square-tipped tail. When In flight the Black-breasted Buzzard is recognised by its black breast and the white patches under the wings, at the base of the long ‘fingered’ primaries.

The Black-breasted Buzzard has long feathers on the nape (the back of a bird’s neck) which may be raised in a short crest. When at rest, it has a reddish nape that stands out against the black face and back. The breast of this species can be a sandy-brown or dark brown and black, referred to as light-phase or dark-phase. The use of phase instead of morph is that the feathers can darken over time or as the bird gets older.

A common raptor throughout most of its range, the Black-breasted Buzzard are known for its skill in cracking eggs. Whilst the species can break small eggs easily with its bill, it uses a small rock that it will pick up with its bill to hurl at the larger eggs. It will repeatedly do this until the egg breaks open, before eating the contents.

When searching for prey, they can be seen soaring up high and then gliding low. Their prey include ground birds, lizards, rabbits and carrion. Gliding at speed, they can snatch prey from the ground, from trees and in the air.

Black-breasted Buzzard (Hamirostra melanosternon), Alice Springs Desert Park

Images © Dorothy L

  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Accipitriformes
  • Family: Accipitridae
  • Genus: Hamirostra
  • Species: H. melanosternon
  • Binomial name: Hamirostra melanosternon

Footnote & References

  1. Black-breasted Buzzard, Birdlife Australia,
  2. Black-breasted Buzzard, Australian Museum,