Eagle, Martial

Polemaetus bellicosus
Martial eagle on its kill

© Andre Podbielski

The largest eagle in Africa, the martial eagle is powerful enough to knock a man off his feet. They have large defended territories of between 100 and 1,000 km2. Their preferred habitat is savanna, grassland and thornbush. Large trees are needed for hunting, roosting and nesting.

Conservation status : Vulnerable
Length : 78 to 86 cm
Weight : 2.4 to 5 kg
Wing span : 1.9 to 2.4 m
Life span : 14 years
Clutch : 1 egg
Incubation : 48 to 53 days

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The martial eagle will spend much of its day searching for food. It will soar so high that it is often no more than a pinprick, barely visible to the naked eye. During these flights they cover hundreds of square kilometres.

The martial eagle frequently hunts monitor lizards. It will also take larger animals such as hares, young warthogs and impala, primates and dassies.

The martial eagle uses a variety of hunting techniques which include: stooping down from a far using cover to mask its approach, gliding through openings of foliage in trees and, waiting concealed in a tree to ambush at a waterhole or game path.

As the largest eagle in Africa, the martial eagle is capable of knocking a man off his feet.

Juvenile martial eagles are dependent upon their parents for food for as long as 8 months.

If a martial eagle cannot carry its prey away, which is the case for mammals over 8 kg, it will eat it there on the ground, returning to feed for up to 5 days.

The eyesight of the martial eagle is incredible, they can see prey up to 6 km away.