Haliaeetus vocifer - The African Fish Eagle

Widespread in South Africa, the Fish Eagle is particularly common in and around some of the Rift Valley lakes. So well known and clear is the call of this bird that it is often known as "the Voice of Africa". A handsome bird, the African Fish Eagle is easily recognised by its pure white head, the striking contrast between the white upper-body and tail, the chestnut belly and the black wings. The sexes look alike but the female is the larger of the two.

Did you know? The African Fish Eagle has two distinct calls. When near the nest its call is more of a "quock" sound - the female being, in all cases, a little shriller and less mellow than the male. So well known and clear is the call of this bird that it is often called "the voice of Africa".

The African Fish Eagle is most frequently seen sitting high in a tall tree from where it has a good view of the stretch of river, lakeshore or coastline which is its territory. Near a lake with an abundant food supply, a pair may require less than a km˛ of water to find enough food, whereas next to a small river, they may require a stretch of 25km or more.

Size

Range mass: 2 - 3.6 kg.
Range length: 63 - 77 cm.
Range wingspan: 175 - 210 cm.

Habitat

The African Fish Eagle is most frequently seen by the rivers, lakes and coasts of Africa south of the Sahara. Near Lake Victoria and the other great lakes of Central Africa it is to be seen in large numbers. The African Fish Eagle is usually seen in pairs inside and outside the breeding season, even sharing kills made by either of them. They spend more time perched than flying, and usually settle for the day by mid morning.

Distribution

Widespread in South Africa, the African Fish Eagle is particularly common in and around some of the Rift Valley lakes. To see it in its natural habitat, travellers can visit the Amakhala Game Reserve just outside Port Elizabeth, the Zandvlei Nature Estuary Reserve in Cape Town, Tilodi Wilderness outside Johannesburg, Dronfield Nature Reserve (just outside Kimberley), and the TC Robertson Nature Reserve, which is about 40 minutes from Durban in KwaZulu-Natal.

Diet

Their main food is fish, sometimes dead, but mostly caught live. Catfish and lungfish are among the most frequent. They also catch and eat some water birds, including their young. The birds most frequently taken include ibis, storks, herons and spoonbills and especially the Lesser Flamingo. They also eat some carrion. Live caught fish account for about 90% of their diet.

Socialisation

The African Fish eagle usually lives in pairs and spend most of their time perched on branches, overlooking water. Extremely effecient hunters, they only spend little time hunting and most of their day at leisure after a successful kill made early in the day.

Communication

African fish eagles communicate vocally with each other and with other avian competitors to establish and maintain their territories. Duets between a breeding pair are common - more often heard at the start of their breeding season, this duetting creates a close bond between the mating pair.

Reproduction

African Fish Eagle are known to be monogamous, breeding once a year. Typical eagles, their nest is used year after year, growing with the addition of new material each year. The breeding display consists of much soaring and calling with very occasional claw-grappling. One to three white eggs are laid at three day intervals.

Incubation

Incubation lasts about 44 days and the young fledge after 65-75 days

Life Expectancy

12 to 14 years in the wild, up to 40 years in captivity.

Predators

Primates, Nile Monitors and Snakes.

References

Krugerpark, eol.org; BBC Nature and Arkive.

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Where to see African Fish Eagle in their natural habitat?

Want to see african fish eagle in their natural habitat? In South Africa, the african fish eagle can be seen in many reserves and parks including...

Conservation Status
African Fish Eagle
Least
concern
Kruger Park's Big 6 Birds

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