The African Hawk Eagle’s Diverse Diet


The African Hawk Eagle’s Diverse Diet

The African hawk-eagle (Aquila spilogaster) is a powerful bird of prey found in sub-Saharan Africa. It primarily feeds on other birds, making up 70% to 74% of its diet. This raptor is known for its exceptional hunting skills, often catching prey that is significantly larger than itself.

Prey Diversity

In terms of prey diversity, the African hawk-eagle is highly adaptable. While birds make up the majority of its diet, it also consumes small to medium-sized mammals, reptiles, and insects. The proportion of birds in its diet can range from 74% to 86%, while mammals account for 54% to 70%. This indicates that the African hawk-eagle can adjust its diet based on prey availability in its environment.

Hunting Techniques

The African hawk-eagle’s hunting technique often involves hunting in pairs, with one bird distracting the prey and the other striking. This tactic is also observed in the Bonelli’s eagle, suggesting a possible sociosexual reason for tandem hunting. African hawk-eagles have been known to use various strategies to capture prey, such as utilizing mesh fences to drive guineafowl into a confined space or perching in a specific area to derive prey opportunistically.

Regional Variations

The diet of African hawk-eagles in different regions may vary. For instance, in Namibia, where the habitat is overgrazed, birds decrease in importance and mammals increase in the diet. When taking mammalian prey, African hawk-eagles typically select mammals weighing more than 300 g (11 oz) up to 4,000 g (8.8 lb). Largish ground-feeding birds, such as francolins, spurfowls, guineafowls, and smaller species of bustards and hornbills, are primary prey for these eagles.

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Habitat and Distribution

african hawk eagle DietImage source: African hawk-eagle by Charles J. Sharp

African hawk-eagles have a wide distribution across sub-Saharan Africa, with the farthest north occurring in eastern Eritrea and adjacent areas of Ethiopia, and the range resuming almost throughout southern Ethiopia. They tend to be scarce to rare in West Africa and are found in well-wooded countryside, tropical broadleaf woodland, and woodland edge within the savanna.

Adaptability and Success

The African hawk-eagle’s hunting techniques and ability to adjust its diet based on prey availability make it a successful predator in various habitats across sub-Saharan Africa. Its adaptability and diverse diet contribute to its success as a top predator in the region.

References: – African Hawk Eagle
Reddit – African Hawk Eagle – Black Hawk Eagle