When Do African Fish Eagles Lay Eggs?


When Do African Fish Eagles Lay Eggs?

African fish eagles lay eggs during the dry season when water levels are low, typically from April to October in southern Africa, June to December in coastal eastern Africa, and October to April in western Africa. They usually lay 1 to 4 eggs, but only 1 or 2 chicks survive due to siblicide, where the older and stronger chick kills the younger and weaker one for food.

Nesting and Breeding Habits of African Fish Eagles

The African fish eagle is a large bird of prey that inhabits sub-Saharan Africa near large bodies of open water with an abundant food supply. They are diurnal birds that spend most of their time perched on branches near the water, swooping down upon prey from their perch.

Nesting Behavior

  • African fish eagles build large stick nests high up in tall trees near the water’s edge.
  • The nests are typically 1.5 to 2 meters wide and can be used for multiple breeding seasons.
  • The female is primarily responsible for building and maintaining the nest.

Breeding Season

  • In southern Africa, the breeding season typically runs from April to October during the dry season.
  • In coastal eastern Africa, the breeding season is from June to December.
  • In western Africa, the breeding season is from October to April.

Egg Laying and Incubation

  • African fish eagles usually lay 1 to 4 eggs, but only 1 or 2 chicks typically survive due to siblicide.
  • The incubation period lasts for about 42 to 45 days.
  • The female is primarily responsible for incubating the eggs and caring for the chicks, while the male provides food for the family.
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Hatching and Fledging

  • The eggs do not all hatch at once, and the second chick that hatches is often smaller and weaker than its older sibling.
  • The younger chick often dies due to competition for food from the larger, more dominant sibling.
  • The chicks fledge (leave the nest) when they are around 70 to 75 days old.

Threats and Conservation Status

when do african fish eagles lay eggsImage source: African fish eagle above water by Mehmet Karatay

The African fish eagle is not currently facing major threats, but its populations are negatively impacted by pollution and pesticides in water bodies, which could result in eggshell thinning.

Population Size and Conservation Status

  • The total population size of the African fish eagle is around 300,000 individuals.
  • The species is classified as Least Concern (LC) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Threats to the Species

  • Pollution and pesticides in water bodies can lead to eggshell thinning and reduced reproductive success.
  • Habitat loss and degradation due to human activities near water bodies.
  • Hunting and persecution by humans in some areas.


The African fish eagle is a majestic and iconic bird of prey in sub-Saharan Africa. Understanding their nesting and breeding habits, as well as the threats they face, is crucial for their conservation. By protecting the water bodies and habitats they rely on, we can ensure the continued survival of this remarkable species.