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Length 44-55 cm, mass 0.9-1.7 kg. Females larger than males. The wings are broad and the tail short.
Adult: Black above with a chestnut tail. The chin and throat are black and the breast is rich rufous, bordered by white feathers. The underwing coverts are black and the flight feathers from below are white (white barred black from above), tipped with black to form a dark trailing edge to the wing. White-breasted morphs occur, and sometimes the entire underparts are white. Dark morphs with underparts that are mostly black have also been observed, but are rare.
Juvenile: Mainly brown above and rufous brown below and on the tail.
Closely related to (and sometimes lumped with) Augur Buzzard Buteo augur.
Buteo rufofuscus is monotypic.
Mainly hills and mountains, although non-breeding adults and juveniles can be found in flat terrain. The species prefers short vegetation, ranging from fynbos, Karoo and semi-desert to open woodland and grassland.
Small ground mammals make up about 65% of the diet, but snakes, lizards, small ground birds, insects, and road-kill are also taken. Typically, the raptor drops on its prey after 'hanging' on an updraft, from a hover, or from a perch.
Call: A loud, yelping 'keeooow', similar to the call of the Black-backed Jackal.
Breeding: They build a 1-metre wide stick nest in a tree or on a crag; it is often reused and enlarged in subsequent seasons. 2 creamy or bluish white eggs are laid and incubated by the female only; food is brought to her on the nest by the male. The eggs hatch in about 40 days, and after a further 56-60 days they can attempt flight. At 70 days they become independent of the nest, but young birds may then be seen with the adult pair for some time.