The well-known Sangoma, Credo Mutwa, tells us all birds of the hawk family are sacred to the god of Light throughout Southern Africa amongst all tribes. The hawk is also a symbol of faith. Some say it is the symbol of death in the way it swoops out of the sky, snatches a chicken and takes it away before its mother can do anything.
This bird we call the bird of a thousand dreams. If a man or a woman dreams of this bird, it is seen that this person has been called to an initiation.
If while walking in the veld, you come across a dead hawk, it is seen as a symbol of the transience of human life. The omen tells you that you must do everything you want to do quickly because time flies and does not come back again. The hawk is also a symbol of courage, of truthfulness and of fighting for the right cause.
Sometimes when hawks are particularly vicious towards a village’s chickens, the owners of the chickens will put wings of hawks tied to the thatch of the huts on the outside to deter these rather hungry birds.”
In Biblical Scripture ‘hawk’ is a general name applied to several small and medium sized birds of prey. All hawks were unclean and were not to be eaten Leviticus 11:13
The term ‘hawk’ is often used as a general term for medium or small sized birds of prey when a more appropriate word would be ‘raptor’. Raptors are characterised by their hooked beaks and keen eyesight as well as their powerful feet with sharp talons. They are carnivores preying on carrion, small and medium sized mammals, birds, reptiles, frogs, and fish. The only bird described in Roberts under the term ‘hawk’ is the Bat Hawk found further north. There are, of course, sparrow hawks, and goshawks. The raptor most commonly seen around Clarens is the Jackal Buzzard, so-called because its call closely resembles that of a jackal.
Jackal Buzzards are easily identified in flight by their broad wings with broad white bands underneath. It has a prominent rufous chest and tail, clearly seen when perched, often on telephone poles, and these features are usually visible in flight as well. The bird illustrated is a juvenile.
They favour mostly mountainous and hilly country including high places in Lesotho and Drakensberg extending down to the Cape and up to the coastal regions of Namibia. They do not occur in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Kruger National Park and are not migratory.
References: Raptor Identifications Guide for Southern Africa, Oberprieler & Cillie, Wildlife Campus- African Folklore Course, Roberts Birds of Southern Africa, NIV Dictionary of the Bible.
by Peter Millin