This thread is about African Fish Eagles. If you have any photos of or interesting information about African Fish Eagles you can post it here. Maybe you have made an interesting observation while watching African Fish Eagles in one of the SANParks that you want to share with the rest of us; this is the place to do it.
African Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer)
French: Pygargue vocifer, Aigle pêcheur
Dutch: Afrikaanse Zeearend
The sound of the African Fish Eagle has become synonymous with the sound of Africa.
African fish eagles are large birds, and the females are often larger than the males. Males usually have a wingspan of about 6 feet, while females have wingspans upwards of 8 feet. They are very distinctive in appearance with a mostly brown body and large, powerful, black wings. The head, breast, and tail of African fish eagles are snow white and the hook-shaped beak is mostly yellow with a black tip.
Although, as its name suggests, it feeds extensively on fish, in some areas (eg Lake Bogoria) it preys on flamingos and other water birds. It is also known to eat carrion and is classified as a kleptoparasite ie it steals prey from other birds. Goliath Herons are known to lose a percentage of their catch to Fish Eagles.
The sound of the African Fish Eagle has become synonymous with the sound of Africa. It has two distinct calls - in flight or perched, the sound is something like the American Bald Eagle. When near the nest, its call is more of a 'quock' sound - the female is a little shriller and less mellow than the male.
As its name suggests, its main diet consists mostly of fish, sometimes dead, but mostly caught live. They are able to catch fish up to 1 kg in weight and in some exceptional circumstances up to 3 kg. Fish weighing over two and a half kilograms are not carried in flight, but planed along surface of water to shore. Catfish and lungfish are caught most frequently. In some areas it also feeds off flamingos and other water birds. It is also known to eat carrion and in some rare circumstances will even feed off dassies, monkeys, monitor lizards, frogs, terrapins and insects.
Hunting takes place from where the eagle is perched and rarely while it is soaring in the sky. Stooping at fish, African Fish Eagle will catch their pray with their feet, usually within 15 cm of the water surface. They may also submerge at times. The African Fish Eagle is classified as a kleptoparasite. This means that it steals prey from other birds, for example Goliath Herons, which are known to lose a percentage of their catch to Fish Eagles. They may also raid colonies of nesting waterbirds for young and eggs.
They spend more time perched than flying, usually sitting high in a tall tree from where they have a good view of the stretch of river, lakeshore or coastline. The African Fish Eagle usually settle for the day by 10am, having made their kill, although they will kill at any time of the day.
The African Fish Eagle does not need a big area to feed off. Near a lake with an abundant food supply, a pair may require less than a square mile of water to find enough food, whereas next to a small river, they may require a stretch of 25 km or more.
Breeding season for African fish eagles is during the dry season, when water levels are low. African fish eagles are believed to mate for life, and pairs will often maintain two or more nests, which they will frequently re-use. Because nests are re-used and built upon over the years the nests can grow to be quite large, some reaching six feet across and 4 feet deep. The nests are placed in a large tree and built mostly of sticks and other pieces of wood.
The female lays 1 to 3 eggs, which are primarily white with a few reddish speckles. Incubation is mostly done by the female, but the male will incubate when the female leaves to hunt. Incubation lasts for 42 to 45 days before the chicks hatch. The eggs will often hatch a few days apart, and the eldest chick will usually kill any younger chicks.
Fledging lasts for 70 to 75 days, and after about 8 weeks the chick is capable of feeding itself and will usually begin to venture outside of the nest 2 weeks later. The juvenile Fish Eagle’s appearance changes gradually over three or four years with the dark streaking on the breast being the last part of the juvenile plumage to vanish