Eagle, African fish

Haliaeetus vocifer

The African fish eagle is responsible for the “characteristic call of Africa” which is produces by flinging its head back as it vocalises. The bird itself is unmistakable with its black, white and chestnut plumage. It is usually associated with large rivers and water bodies where it hunts for fish, reptiles and waterfowl. They will also frequently steal prey from other birds such as the saddle-billed stork.

Conservation status : Least concern
Length : 68 cm
Weight : 3 kg
Wing span : 2 m
Life span : Up to 28 years
Clutch : 1 to 3 eggs
Incubation : 43 days

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The African fish eagle spends most of the time perched in a tree beside the water watching for prey and territorial intruders, it only forages for 5 to 10% of the day.

Juvenile African fish eagles will take 4 to 5 years to develop their adult plumage.

To help grip on to slippery prey the African fish eagle has long sharp talons which are coated in barbs called spiricules.

Courtship includes the birds calling in duet as they fly over their territory. The actual courtship display involves the male diving down at the female who roles over in flight to present her talons.

The female is usually the most aggressive of the pair in defence of the territory. If another female violates her airspace she will either call to see it off or more likely attack it from below. They interlock talons and actually tumble sometimes 100m to the ground.

The African fish eagle is closely related to the American bald eagle. They both belong to a group which is one of the most ancient groups of all living birds.