African Hawk-Eagle

Aquila spilogaster
Population status:
Least Concern
Body length:
55–62 cm (20.4-24.4 in)
Wingspan:
132–150 cm (52-59 in)
Weight:
1150–1750 g (40-61 oz)
African Hawk-eagle Soaring

Munir Virani

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Did You Know?

  • African Hawk-Eagle nests can be quite large - measuring  around 100 cm (39 in) across and between 50–125 cm (19.6-49 in) deep!
  • In 2005, researchers observed a pair of African Hawk-Eagles cooperatively hunting together to chase after a Helmeted Guineafowl.

Other Eagles

How The Peregrine Fund is Helping

Though The Peregrine Fund doesn't work directly with African Hawk-Eagle, in Kenya, our scientists are working hard to learn about and protect all raptors and their habitats. Through environmental education efforts, we are also working to put a stop to the common practice of poisoning carcasses to kill large predators, which also kills a host of wildlife including vultures, eagles, and other scavenging birds. These efforts will certainly benefit all raptors of the region, including the African Hawk-Eagle. 

Meanwhile, our efforts in scientific research, habitat conservation, education, and community development help conserve birds of prey around the world. We also supply literature to researchers from our avian research library, which helps scientists around the world gather and share important information on raptor conservation. We also run the Global Raptor Impact Network which gives raptor researchers tools to more efficiently conduct their own studies while contributing to a global program. GRIN also provides citizen scientists a way to participate in raptor science and conservation.

Where They Live

This striking eagle is found throughout sub-Saharan Africa. It prefers to make its home in dry, woodland habitats, as well as in open savannas dotted with trees, and riparian forests. Commonly occurs singly or in pairs, perching on trees or frequently soaring high overhead.

What They Do

This hawk-eagle's plumage is a lovely mix of blacks, whites, and grays, which all contrast nicely with its bright yellow eyes and yellowish legs. They are relatively small diurnal, non-migratory birds of prey.

The African  Hawk-Eagle, like all top predators, plays a very important role in its environment. It is also known as an umbrella species. Just as several people can stand under a large umbrella and be protected from the rain, so too can many species of wildlife be protected by conserving one species like the African Hawk-Eagle. To protect the eagles, we must protect the animals they need for food, the plants and animals that their prey feed on, and the trees that these eagles nest in, which helps protect the other animals that use these trees for food, shelter, and space. Conserving African Hawk-Eagles and their habitat automatically provides protection for all the other plants and animals that live there too

Why They Need Our Help

Though the African Hawk-Eagle is widespread throughout its range, and it is categorized as a species of Least Concern, that doesn't mean it isn't facing some very serious threats. For example, because this raptor will sometimes feed on domestic chickens and other fowl, farmers will shoot them. As woodland trees are cut down, these birds are also losing important habitat. Sadly, researchers have even found some individuals that have drowned in farm reservoirs.

What They Eat

The African Hawk-Eagle has a varied diet. It will prey upon birds, even quite large ones, including francolins, hornbills and game birds. It also feeds on smaller birds, and mammals (such as hares, dikdiks, squirrels, monkeys, and mongoose), and reptiles and even occasionally on insects. As you can imagine, having a long list of prey items means that this eagle must have several different hunting strategies. It might hang out on a perch, keeping an eye out for prey passing by, or it flies quickly through trees seeing what it can flush up. It also catches prey by soaring high and then stooping onto their prey. 

Nests, Eggs, and Young

The African Hawk-Eagle prefers to nest in riparian areas, along hill slopes, or even, but less often, on power pylons. It builds a large nest composed of sticks, which it places high up in a tree. The female will lay 1-2 eggs, which must be incubated for around 43 days. When the eaglets hatch, they are covered in dark grey down. These eaglets practice something known as siblicide - this is when one nestling (usually the older one) kills its sibling. 

Even though hatchling African Hawk-Eagles start off small, the surviving nestling will grow quickly, it needs to eat a lot and it needs to eat often. When it is very young, the mother will tear off small pieces of meat for the nestling and delicately feed it with her bill. Later, as the eaglet grows, it will be able to tear off and eat the meat on its own. At around 61-71 days after hatching, the young eagle will fledge, or fly for the first time. Its first few flights might be shaky and awkward, but after only a few days, it will be flying almost as well as its parents.

African Hawk-Eagle and the World Center for Birds of Prey

The World Center for Birds of Prey offers fun ways to learn about birds of prey. Interactive activities, tours, interesting videos and a children's room with activities from coloring sheets to quizzes to costumes are all available for our guests. We also have knowledgeable, on-site staff to answer any questions you may have. Though we don't have any African Hawk-Eagles on our Avian Ambassador team, we do have another hawk-eagle - an Ornate Hawk-Eagle, which is found in the Neotropics!  

References:

Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: African Hawk-eagle Aquila spilogaster. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 3 Dec. 2021

Kemp, A. C., P. F. D. Boesman, and J. S. Marks (2020). African Hawk-Eagle (Aquila spilogaster), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.afrhae1.01