African Fish Eagle

The African Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer) is a large species of eagle. They are quite common near freshwater lakes, reservoirs, or rivers, although they can sometimes be found near the coast at the mouths of rivers or lagoons. As their name implies African fish eagles are indigenous to Africa, ranging over most of continental Africa south of the southern-most edge of the Sahara Desert.

Females are often larger than the males. Males usually have a wingspan of about 6 feet, while females have wingspans close to 8 feet. They are very unique in appearance with a mostly brown body and large, powerful, black wings. The head, breast, and tail are snow white and the hook-shaped beak is mostly yellow with a black tip.

Breeding season for African fish eagles is during the dry season, when water levels are low. These birds are thought 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 they 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 1-3 eggs, which are primarily white with a few reddish speckles. The female does most of the incubation which last for 42-45 days. The male will occasionally incubate when the female leaves to hunt. The eggs will often hatch a few days apart and the eldest chick will usually kill any younger chicks. Fledging lasts for 70-75 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.

This bird’s diets consists mainly of fish, which, upon spying from a perch in a tree, it will swoop down and snatch from the water with its large clawed talons and fly back to its perch to eat. Should the African fish eagle catch a fish over 4 pounds it will be too heavy to allow it to get lift, so it will instead drag the fish across the surface of the water until it reaches the shore. Should the African fish eagle catch an especially heavy fish that is too heavy to even allow the eagle to sustain flight it will drop into the water and paddle to the nearest shore with its wings. African fish eagles will also feed on waterfowl, small turtles, baby crocodiles, and carrion.