Australian Bush Birds
Pacific Baza  -  Aviceda subcristata
pacific baza
Pacific Baza showing the horizontal rufous or brown breast bars and dark, pointed head crest. The rufous vent area and undertail coverts are visible. (Casino, NSW)
pacific baza pacific baza
Mainly grey head with prominent single crest and round, yellow eye.
map map The Pacific Baza - Aviceda subcristata - is a medium sized bird (350 to 430 millimetres); the female has a longer tail than the male. Males and females are characterised by short crests at the back of the head, prominent round yellow eyes, and dark or maroon breast bars. The Baza has an upright posture when perched.

Males are medium to dark grey-blue above, tinged brown on back and shoulders with darker head, lighter face and black crest. The upper parts can appear paler in direct sunlight. Tail is dark blue-grey above, pale below with a dusky bar near the tip. Throat and upper breast mid-grey, chin lighter. Belly white to cream with distinct black-brown horizontal bars; vent and undertail coverts are rufous. Eye is golden yellow; skin around the eye is yellow-green with a blue tinge. The bill is black above, lower mandible blue-grey with black tip.

Pacific Baza - page 2
Wings are broad and rounded, flight feathers are mid to dark blue-grey above, paler below, with darker bars. Primary feathers (at the tips) are very long, deeply notched and widely spread making the long wings "paddle-shaped". Underwing is orange-buff merging into pale grey at the trailing edge. Feet pale grey.

Female is similar to the male with browner crown, back and rump. Breast bars are chestnut brown, vent and underwing coverts are also rufous but lighter in colour.

Immatures have dark brown heads with a brown crest; the back is mottled brown and grey with a rufous edge to each feather. Breast bars are narrower than on adults; chin is white, throat and upper breast mottled light rufous tinged blue-grey. Eye light yellow.

Soars and glides with wings held almost flat; weaving and circling around treetops along the edge of eucalyptus and rain forest and particularly along tree-lined watercourses. Patrols the outer foliage, weaving around and through tree crowns, snatching food - grubs, frogs and reptiles but mainly large stick insects. Sometimes crashes into foliage presumably to dislodge prey and has been seen to take insects in flight. Pacific Bazas hunt at any time of the day, mostly through the morning and later afternoon.

Flight is generally slow with leisurely flapping and gliding; broad rounded wings allow the bird to manoeuver easily. Gliding and soaring flight is graceful, effortlessly floating on long, wide wings. Generally rather unobtrusive and does not cause alarm among smaller birds. Rather solitary birds. Although predominantly sedentary and probably permanently paired they interact closely with their mates only when breeding.

Breeds from September to March, usually October to December. Nesting begins with spectacular aerial displays; the pair soar, circle, swoop and tumble while calling loudly; the birds plunge down then draw up, somersaulting and rolling over in flight. The nest is a flimsy structure of sticks, slightly cupped, lined with twigs and green leaves; 280 to 380 millimetres across and 130 to 200 millimeters deep; the egg cavity is 130 to 150 mm across and 30 to 50 mm deep. A nest may be used for more than one season. Usually built on a horizontal limb, 15 to 30 metres above the ground, rarely lower.

Male and female share nest-building. Two or three, rarely five, eggs are laid. rough to fine in texture with faint sheen; plain white with blue tinge, occasionally stained and blotched. Rounded-oval, about 43 by 34 millimetres. Incubated by both parents for about 33 days, young fledge in 32 to 35 days.

The Pacific Baza is found in two separate populations; one in the north-west and one along eastern Australia. The north-west population lives in forests of the coastal north-west from the Fitzroy River to McArthur River in the Northern Territory. The eastern population extends from Cape York along the east coast and well inland, to about Sydney.

Also occurs in New Guinea and adjacent islands to the Solomons, as well as from the Lesser Sunda Islands to the Moluccas. Globally there are 12 races, one found in Australia.

Similar Species/Identification. The Brown Goshawk and Collared Sparrowhawk are similar but these both have finer barring, do not have crests, but do have longer yellow legs and different wing shape in flight.

Nomenclature: Also known as the Crested Hawk (former name) and Pacific Lizard-Hawk.