African Hawk-Eagle

Aquila spilogaster

An inhabitant of woodland and savanna habitats, the African Hawk-Eagle is a medium-sized eagle preying primarily on birds, mammals and reptiles up to 4kg in weight – no small feat for a bird that itself weighs only about 1.5kg (females are slightly bigger than males).

African Hawk-Eagles are normally encountered in monogamous, territorial pairs which often hunt and feed cooperatively. In the breeding season, which starts in winter and extends into spring, they also work together to build and maintain their large stick nest in the canopies of tall trees or, less frequently, on cliffs or utility pylons. The female takes responsibility for incubating the clutch of 1 or 2 eggs over a 5 week period while the male feeds her and the newly hatched chicks at the nest – the female only starts leaving the nest for short periods about a week after the chicks emerged. The first-hatched chick usually dominates the second, most often leading to the death of the second chick through starvation or being persistently bullied. The chicks leave the nest at about two months old and remain dependent on the parent birds for three more months thereafter before dispersing.

The African Hawk-Eagle occurs widely over sub-Saharan Africa with the exclusion of the equatorial forests and arid regions. The IUCN considers it to be of least concern while noting that populations are declining due to loss of habitat and persecution as poultry thieves. A fairly rare resident in South Africa’s northern provinces (Gauteng, North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga), where the population is estimated to be about 1,600 pairs, and occasionally recorded in northern Kwazulu-Natal, the African Hawk-Eagle is considered near-threatened in South Africa and mostly seen in the large conservation areas encompassed by its distribution range, most notably the Kruger National Park.

29 thoughts on “African Hawk-Eagle

  1. sustainabilitea

    Such impressive-looking birds. I find it interesting/ironic/?? that the ads on this page are of small dogs lying down as if dead…or attacked by a bird of prey. That’s just how my weird mind works. 🙂

    janet

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Oh dear, I hope that wasn’t too distressing to see, Janet. I dearly would love to have the “no ads” upgrade on our page, but with the Rand-Dollar exchange rate being what it is it’s prohibitively expensive.

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        1. de Wets Wild Post author

          Concerned about the ads people see when visiting our page and that it may seem we endorse whatever product is featured.
          It’s a beautiful weekend here in the RSA, thanks Janet, And I hope the same goes where you are?

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          1. sustainabilitea

            The ads were for things that could be wrong if your dog was sleeping too much, that sort of thing.

            It’s a good weekend so far here but very hot. We’ve had a record number of days in a row over 110F, a record I’d be happy not to be part of! 🥵

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  2. photobyjohnbo

    Interesting story about a beautiful raptor. I was unaware of the “sibling rivalry” in raptors. I don’t know much about birds, but I have seen bald eagle nests with 3 or 4 chicks. Would have never guessed that in harsher climates, there is truly a survival of the fittest in the nest.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      That’s a very interesting observation about the bald eagles raising such large broods, John! And it must be amazing to see a family of such majestic birds together!

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Thanks, Anne. Sadly we’re still trapped in the wrong province, and even if inter-provincial travel was allowed it would have been difficult with school and work. We’re concentrating on our December trip to the Western and Eastern Cape. Speaking of which, for you lucky folk in the EC there are some lovely discounts available at Addo, Camdeboo and Mountain Zebra till end of August – did you see?

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        1. de Wets Wild Post author

          You’ll be having an awesome time, I’m sure! Mountain Zebra is one of our favourites too and we hope to visit there over New Year,
          Thanks to the President’s announcement last night we can now also roam wider.

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  3. H.J. for avian101

    I believe that fights between siblings happen with other types of eagles, too. The parents do not interfere with the rivalry if food is kind of scarce or drought is making life difficult. They will keep only the strongest and dominant chick with greater chance to survive the hard times. These birds are so beautiful! Thank you, D. for the wonderful post. 🙂

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Thanks, H.J. That is indeed true of many raptors all over the world. The 2nd egg serves basically as an insurance policy in case the first laid egg doesn’t hatch. The energy investment in raising two chicks to adulthood must be immense.

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