How Do African Fish Eagles Mate?


How Do African Fish Eagles Mate?

African fish eagles are large birds of prey that primarily feed on fish. They are believed to mate for life and maintain two or more nests, which they frequently reuse. The breeding season for African fish eagles varies depending on their location, but they typically breed during the dry season.

Courtship and Mating Behavior

During courtship, African fish eagles perform aerial displays that include diving, swooping, and calling. In some instances, the pair will lock talons and perform a whirling dive together. This display is believed to strengthen the bond between the pair and demonstrate their fitness as mates.

After the courtship rituals, the pair will mate. The female African fish eagle lays 1-4 eggs, but usually just two. The incubation period lasts for about 45 days, with the female primarily responsible for incubating the eggs.

Nest Building and Egg Laying

how do african fish eagles mateImage source: African fish eagle above water by Mehmet Karatay

African fish eagles build large nests out of sticks and branches, usually in a tree or on a cliff ledge. They use the same nest year after year, adding new nesting material to the existing structure. After several years, the nests can become quite large, measuring up to 6 feet long and 4 feet deep.

The eggs do not all hatch at once, and the second chick that hatches, which is smaller than its older sibling, often dies due to competition for food. This is a common occurrence in African fish eagle nests, as the parents struggle to provide enough food for both chicks.

Breeding Season and Habitat

The breeding season for African fish eagles varies depending on their location. Along the equator, breeding can occur most months, while in southern Africa, April through October is the typical breeding season. In coastal eastern Africa, breeding occurs from June through December, and in western Africa, it occurs from October through April.

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Big, strong trees capable of supporting these heavy nests are essential for breeding pairs of African fish eagles. They often choose trees near water sources, such as rivers, lakes, or coastal areas, to ensure a reliable food supply for their young.

Mortality Rates and Conservation Efforts

According to the Animal Diversity Web, only 5% of African fish eagle young reach adulthood, indicating the high mortality rate among this species. This statistic highlights the importance of conservation efforts to protect this species and ensure their survival.

The Peregrine Fund and other organizations are working to study and protect the African fish eagle, as their populations are threatened by habitat loss, pollution, and human disturbance. By understanding their unique mating and nesting behaviors, we can better inform conservation strategies and ensure the continued survival of this iconic bird of prey.


  • Haliaeetus vocifer: INFORMATION – Animal Diversity Web
  • African Fish-eagle | The Peregrine Fund
  • African fish eagle – Wikipedia