Adult likely to be confused only with smaller Ayres's hawk-eagle but is less boldly marked below and has white unpspotted thighs; in flight, the underwing is mainly white (it is dark and heavily barred in Ayres's hawk-eagle), and the upperwing is dark brown., with distinctive white panels at the base of the primaries (Ayres's hawk-eagle has a uniformely dark upperwing).
Female is larger and more heavily streaked in front than male. Juvenile has the underwing coverts and underbody pale rufous, becoming more black-streaked with age; above it is browner than adult and it lacks the conspicuous terminal tail bar. it is easily confused with juvenile black sparrowhawk, but has feathered (not bare) legs.
Woodland and savanna.
Seldom calls; a whistled, musical 'klee-klee-klee'.