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A photo of a African Hawk-Eagle (Aquila spilogaster)
African Hawk-Eagle

African Hawk-Eagle

Aquila spilogaster

The African hawk-eagle, Aquila spilogaster, is a formidable bird of prey, belonging to the family Accipitridae. It is characterized by feathered legs, indicative of its membership in the Aquilinae subfamily. The species exhibits a striking pied appearance, with adults showcasing a slate black-grey coloration above and a contrasting whitish underside. Juveniles, however, present a more subdued brownish plumage with tawny-rufous underparts.

Identification Tips

In flight, the African hawk-eagle is recognized by its mid-sized raptor profile, with a small but prominent head, longish tail, and wings that are neither particularly long nor broad. The adult's wings display a pale whitish-grey window on the primaries, while the juvenile's wings are rufous with dusky edges. The species' powerful and shallow wingbeats are distinctive, as are the bold but sparse blackish streaks on the adult's underside.

Habitat

This species is found in a variety of well-wooded habitats, including tropical broadleaf woodland and woodland edges within savannas. It is also known to inhabit thornbush areas and riparian zones, which support taller trees in otherwise dry regions.

Distribution

The African hawk-eagle is widespread across sub-Saharan Africa, from eastern Eritrea and Ethiopia in the north to northeastern South Africa in the south. It is notably absent from true deep forests and mountainous regions.

Behaviour

The African hawk-eagle is a solitary bird, though adults are often seen in pairs. It establishes breeding territories with aerial displays and is known for its aggressive defense of its nest against potential threats.

Song & Calls

Outside the breeding season, this eagle is generally silent. Its calls include a melodious fluting "klooee" and a shrill "kluu-kluu-kluu," which may be heard during courtship or when the bird is agitated.

Breeding

Breeding occurs in a stick nest high in a large tree, with a clutch typically consisting of one or two eggs. The species is highly monogamous, with pairs often remaining together for life.

Similar Species

The African hawk-eagle may be confused with the Bonelli's eagle in areas where their ranges overlap. However, the Bonelli's eagle is larger with different proportions and lacks the wing "windows" characteristic of the African hawk-eagle.

Diet and Feeding

This raptor is a bold and aggressive hunter, preying on medium to large-sized birds and small-to-medium-sized mammals. It employs a stealthy approach, often hunting from a concealed perch before launching a swift attack.

Conservation status

The African hawk-eagle is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN, with an estimated adult population of around 100,000 birds. However, the population is believed to be slowly declining due to habitat destruction and other anthropogenic factors.

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