How to Tell Difference Between Male and Female African Fish Eagles


How to Tell Difference Between Male and Female African Fish Eagles

The African fish eagle, also known as the African sea eagle, is a large raptor found throughout sub-Saharan Africa. These majestic birds are known for their distinctive calls and impressive hunting skills. However, distinguishing between male and female African fish eagles can be a bit tricky. In this blog post, we’ll explore the key differences between the sexes to help you identify them with confidence.

Size Differences

One of the most noticeable differences between male and female African fish eagles is their size. Females are typically 25% larger than their male counterparts. This size difference is particularly evident when observing the birds in person or through photographs. However, it’s important to note that size alone may not always be a reliable indicator, as there can be some overlap in the measurements between individual birds.

Vocal Differences

how to tell difference between male and female african fish eaglesImage source: African fish eagle above water by Mehmet Karatay

Another way to differentiate between male and female African fish eagles is by their vocalizations. When near the nest, the female’s call is more of a ‘quock’ sound, while the male’s call is less mellow and shriller. During a duet, the male’s call is higher-pitched compared to the female’s. Paying close attention to the birds’ calls can provide valuable clues to their sex.

Behavioral Differences

Observing the birds’ behavior, especially during the breeding season, can also help identify their sex. Male African fish eagles are known to perform spectacular courtship flights, which are a sight to behold. These aerial displays are part of the birds’ mating rituals and are not typically seen in the females.

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Hunting Behavior

While hunting, the differences between male and female African fish eagles can also be observed. Females, being larger, are generally more adept at catching larger prey, such as fish and small mammals. In contrast, males may focus on smaller prey, such as birds and small reptiles, due to their smaller size.

Nesting Behavior

During the breeding season, the nesting behavior of African fish eagles can provide additional clues to their sex. Females are typically more involved in the nest-building process, while males may take on a more supportive role, such as bringing nesting material to the female.

Plumage Differences

Although the plumage of male and female African fish eagles is generally similar, there can be some subtle differences. Females may have slightly more mottled or speckled patterns on their feathers, while males may have a more uniform appearance. However, these plumage differences can be quite subtle and may not be a reliable way to distinguish between the sexes.


Identifying the sex of African fish eagles can be a challenging task, but by observing their size, vocalizations, behavior, and nesting habits, you can increase your chances of accurately determining whether you’re observing a male or a female. Remember, these differences may not always be immediately apparent, and it may require careful observation and a good understanding of the species to make a confident identification.