Over recent months we have observed larger than normal numbers of Black-breasted Buzzards, so we can assume that they have had some successful breeding over the past year. It has been quite common to observe up to six Black-breasted Buzzards at the local ephemeral lakes and also on our travels in the north of Australia over recent months. Many of the birds observed have been juvenile birds and have not quite developed their full adult plumage. In flight the Black-breasted Buzzards have upturned wing tips and the adults show a distinct white window at the base of their black primaries. The adults are easily recognised in flight, but a juvenile Black-breasted Buzzard bird can be harder to identify due to the similarity with juvenile Spotted Harriers, juvenile Square-tailed Kites and juvenile Little Eagles. The juvenile Spotted Harrier and juvenile Square-tailed Kite have barred flight feathers and the juvenile Little Eagle glides on flat wings.

This week we returned to the ephemeral lake where we observed the Little Ringed Plover recently, which is still present, and observed several Black-breasted Buzzards. Due to the heat and the low humidity there were a lot of birds taking advantage of the freshwater supply. A juvenile Black-breasted Buzzard landed close to where we were parked and ventured down to the water. It cautiously drank from the muddy edges and kept a cautious eye on its surroundings.

Black-breasted Buzzard (2)

Black-breasted Buzzard (3)

Black-breasted Buzzard drinking

Black-breasted Buzzard drinking

The juvenile Black-breasted Buzzard then wandered away from the water and proceeded to sun-bathe! Although it is not entirely clear why a bird would do this, it is believed that they may do it to expose the skin and make mites and other small creatures feel uncomfortable and move off their body. We have also observed raptors lying flat on the ground with their wings spread wide on very hot and dry days.

Black-breasted Buzzard sunbathing (2)

Black-breasted Buzzard sunbathing

Black-breasted Buzzard sun-bathing

A few minutes later the juvenile Black-breasted Buzzard decided to not just drink from the water, but take a considerable bath. It wandered cautiously into the water and then finally decided to completely submerge itself in the water and really have a good bath.

Black-breasted Buzzard bathing

Black-breasted Buzzard bathing (2)

Black-breasted Buzzard bathing (3)

Black-breasted Buzzard bathing (4)

Black-breasted Buzzard bathing (5)

Black-breasted Buzzard bathing (6)

Black-breasted Buzzard bathing (7)

Black-breasted Buzzard bathing (8)

Black-breasted Buzzard bathing (9)

Black-breasted Buzzard bathing

It truly looked like it was enjoying the cool water on its feathers and had a really good shake afterwards.

Sitting out in the hot sun with no shade may not be everybody’s idea of fun, but the birding is always rewarding and numerous species visited the freshwater over the time we were there to not only drink, but bathe.


Written by Clare M
Clare and her husband, Grant, have lived permanently in Broome, Western Australia since 1999 after living in various outback locations around Western Australia and Darwin. She has lived in the Middle East and the United States and traveled extensively in Europe. She monitors Pied Oystercatchers breeding along a 23km stretch of Broome's coastline by bicycle and on foot. She chooses not to participate in social media, but rather wander off into the bush for peace and tranquility. Thankfully she can write posts in advance and get away from technology!