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Eagle, African Fish

Identify and index birds in Southern Africa

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Eagle, African Fish

Unread postby francoisd » Fri Jan 28, 2005 10:11 am

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)

Other names:
Afrikaans: Visarend
French: Pygargue vocifer, Aigle pêcheur
German: Schreiseeadler
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.

Food:
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:
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

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African Fish Eagle

Unread postby wildtuinman » Wed Mar 16, 2005 6:45 am

Has anyone ever seen one taking out a fish in one of our National Parks? I would dearly love to c that!! Saw a program yesterday on DSTV where it takes out flamingoes. Spectacular!!
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Unread postby Guinea Pig » Wed Mar 16, 2005 7:52 am

8) We did at Kanniedood Dam. Two photographers from a Wildlife magazine were sitting taking pics with some of the most amazing long lenses I've ever seen when we got there. They showed us the Eagle sitting very close to the hide. Not 10 min later it swooped down. Overall we've been very lucky with Fish Eagles. We've always seen them. Unfortunately the pic isn't that bright (the lens thing :?) but I got one of 2 perching in the same tree at Nsemani. In January one started calling the moment we rolled down the car windows at the bridge at Malelane Gate. What a way to be greeted! 8)

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Unread postby Wild@Heart » Wed Mar 16, 2005 8:00 am

We saw them one catching a fish ... took a picture but missed it where it hit the water ... Saw it at the small dam close to the Tshokwane Picnic spot (don't know the name ... very bad with names)
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Unread postby madach » Wed Mar 16, 2005 9:16 am

I saw a Fish Eagle catch a catfish in Sunset Dam in the KNP last year.

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Unread postby DuQues » Wed Mar 16, 2005 10:13 am

The only one that came out that I dare show to people: eagle with fish (Tilapia?).
This photo was made at Sunset dam, Madach has tried taking pics of the actual catch, but I don't know if those came out.

(Quality not up to standard? Yeah, I know, this is actually a crop of the picture. I did not have a long enough lens, nor enough light.
"Not enough light, there is plenty?" I can hear you thinking that. Well, this is an instance of Photoshop to the rescue...)
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Unread postby wildtuinman » Thu May 26, 2005 9:18 am

Saw an interesting sighting of a juv. fisheagle and two other raptors just sitting in the burnt grass on the H10 on tuesday.

One of the other raptors was a snake eagle.

They looked extremely confortable in each other's presence. I saw no prey. It was also quite far from water. Any idea what they were up to?
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Unread postby david » Fri May 27, 2005 7:56 am

There are a few possibilities.
1. if it was damp (bit of rain or heavy dew) the ants may have been active and the alates (winged males and females) emerging to go and establish new colonies. They come out of the holes in their thousands. I have seen brown snake, tawny and Bateleurs all on the gound pigging themselves stupid on the ants as they emerge from the hole. Talk about shooting fish in a barrell!

2. They may have been in the process of taking a dust / charcoal dust bath. The dust, if i remember is used to take out some of the mites and such like. Dirty birds!!! bathing in the dirt! :lol:

With them sitting together like that, if there is an abundant resource, then competition may be suspended for the duration of the event - making hay while the sun shines sort of thing. as they were not conspecifics, this will have further reduced likelyhood of fighting and competing.

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Unread postby Guinea Pig » Fri Jul 22, 2005 8:05 am

We were watching the pelicans and noticed a FE on the opposite bank in the Shingwedzi riverbed. It suddenly dove down and caught something on dry land. It looked like a rabbit sized animal of some kind. I never knew they catch animals too. I kind of always thought they eat fish only. :redface: :lol:

What was so cute was its behaviour while feeding. It would take a few bites, throw back its head and utter that call. It was actually the first time I've ever seen a FE doing that. 8)

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Unread postby Bush Baptist » Wed Jul 27, 2005 9:22 pm

Seen quite a few AFEs take a fish, from Sunset dam to Engelhard, where I saw one take a fish in June, and a fish eagle fight ensued as the sky around us was filled with skreeching, and acrimonious close flying by a jealous pair and the pair who had the fish. After a short while the fish was dropped, but the fight went on - amazing.

In an alternate park as an appetiser to Kruger in July, we saw the same eagle take 2 fish in 10 minutes. It was too gloomy to photo.

There seems to be an abundance of AFEs at waterholes etc, so if you wait it could be a matter of time.

Good luck.

Oh yes, a few years ago we saw an immature grab a catfish out of a mudhole on the "highway" (Skukuza to LS)
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Unread postby Naturesguy » Sat Aug 13, 2005 9:34 am

Here is a pic of the AFE at Engelhard Dam which was challenging another male to my right.
Image

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Unread postby Jakkalsbessie » Mon Sep 05, 2005 3:25 pm

Pics of Fish eagle:

Image

Image
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Unread postby leopardspotter » Sun Oct 09, 2005 10:06 pm

I have seen two very close on the S47 near Letaba on two ocasions and have also seen one at Bontebok on a hike along the Breede River.
8)

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Unread postby CurtisDillon » Fri Jan 06, 2006 5:40 pm

Great pic madach. :thumbs_up:

It's quit funny listening to sub-adult learning to call. I heard it at Letaba once. It starts off great but makes a mess of it in the middle and then just stops. :lol: Still is a wonderful call.
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Unread postby Jay » Tue Jan 31, 2006 8:36 pm

I had an unusual sighting today: a fish eagle feeding on a dead lamb. It was surrounded by suitably respectful Yellowbilled Kites and crows. I think it might have "poached" the kill from the smaller raptors, who are regulars in the farmlands. BTW, this was fairly close to the Berg river estuary.


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