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Aviceda subcristata
(other names Crested Hawk, Pacific Lizard -Hawk)

By Danielle Davis

Looking like no other bird of prey, the Pacific Baza is easily distinguished from other Raptors by the crest on the back of its head.  (more like an over grown crested Pigeon!)  This quiet, small and unobtrusive hunter of the tree tops lives along the edges of eucalypt and rainforests, particularly the galleries of trees lining watercourses. They patrol the outer foliage, weaving through and around tree crowns, snatching their food from the leaves. Their food consists of grubs, frogs, reptiles, small mice, invertebrates and stick insects. Sometimes they crash into the foliage, presumably to disturb their prey, and they have been seen hanging upside down on branches, searching for food. Some insects are even caught in mid air, the birds wheeling and somersaulting to catch them.

Found mainly in coastal northwestern Australia from Fitzroy River to McArthur River NT, around Gulf of Carpentaria and in the east from Cape York Peninsula all the way south to a couple of hundred kilometers below Sydney and inland to the western fringes of the Great Dividing Range. . Their flight is slow and leisurely, flapping and gliding on broad rounded wings, allowing them to manoeuvre easily and acrobatically. Pacific Bazas hunt at any time of the day, but are diurnal and so mostly through the morning and later afternoon.

Their upper body is grey-blue tinged brown on backs of shoulders, head darker with lighter face and crest is black, wings broad and rounded, flight feathers mid to dark blue-grey with darker bars, tail dark blue-grey, throat and upper breast mid-grey, chin lighter, under belly stripped cream and black-brown bar, eye distinct golden yellow and skin around eye green-yellow with blue tinge, beak black, feet pale grey, claws dusky grey. Baby chicks are born covered in whitish down.

Although infrequently gathering in groups of up to 9, perhaps in family groups, Bazas are rather solitary birds, even though they are rather sedentary and probably permanently paired, they consort closely with their mates only when breeding time. Nesting time is heralded by spectacular aerial displays, the pair soar and circle often to considerable heights, swooping and tumbling while calling loudly, plunging down then drawing up with vigorous flapping to somersault and roll over in mid air.

A hoarsely whistled double call wee-choo or ee-chu commonly heard during breeding months September – March, other calls include shorts whistles and trails.


Both male and female share not only the nest building but also incubation, the brooding and feeding of their young. The nest is a flimsy slightly cupped structure of sticks, lined with twigs and a layer of green leaves approx. 280 – 380 mm across and 120-200 mm deep and may be used for more than one season. Its usually built in a horizontal limb no lower than 15 – 30 metres above the ground. Round-oval eggs range from 2-3 rarely up to 5 and are faint sheen plain white with blue tinge occasionally stained and blotched about 43 x 34 mm. Both parents taking turns to incubate the eggs for about 33 days until the chicks hatch. As the young grow the female spends much more time attending the nest while the male concentrates on hunting. She brings fresh eucalypt leaves to the nest, cleans away all the refuse and often intercepts food brought by the male, dismembering it and passing it to the young herself. The young fledge and leave the nest in 32 – 35 days.  Both parents protect the nest raising their crests in threat or swooping in attack to any predators.


Collisions with cars.

Hundreds of birds and animals recently have come into care injured, many mortally, or with horrific breaks and wounds, from collisions with motor vehicles due to the finish of daylight savings and that more people are on the roads during dawn and dusk. It is at these times especially that we need to slow down and take more care to help our beautiful native fauna. In the morning as the sun rises and again in the afternoon as the sun sets is when most of our birds and animals are most active. At first light the diurnal birds and animals (awake and feeding in the day time) are heading off to find food for themselves and their young through the day and the nocturnal birds and animals (awake and feeding/hunting in the evening) are heading back to their nesting sites. Likewise as the last light is on the horizon, the diurnals are coming home and the nocturnals are becoming active. It is that these times that we need to slow down on our roads and highways and give these birds and animals a chance.
If you do hit an animals if you can stop and see if it is dead, if so move of you can off the road so that other animals that eat carrion do not also get killed or injured. If the animal is still alive or if there is a joey in the pouch or nearby, please call WIRES 6628 1898 as soon as possible or call or take to the nearest vet. If you can wrap the animal in a blanket, towel or whatever you have and place in a confined space such as a box.
We loose over 2.5 millions animals, birds and reptiles on NSW roads alone very year. It is taking a huge toll on our wildlife.
Thank you for your care.

Images by Alicia Carter & Sue Ulyatt

Reference: Field Guide to the Birds Of Australia
Simpson & Day
Every Australian Bird Illustrated, Rigby

Norma Hendersons' books (Aust.Bird Rehab. Manual, Wild bird Rescue )

Complete Book of Aust. Birds
by Readers Digest.

Alicia Carter
Alicia Carter
Alicia Carter
Alicia Carter
Lib Ruytenberg
Alicia Carter
Shaun C Murphy
Sue Ulyatt
Shaun C Murphy
Shaun C Murphy



Updated March 2021  

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