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African fish eagle
Haliaeetus vocifer

 Accipitriforme Order – Accipitridae Family

Length: 74-84 cm ; Wingspan: 170-200 cm ;
Weight: M : 1990-2500 gr ; F : 3170-3600g


African Fish-Eagle is a large bird of prey. Dark body and wings contrast with white head and tail. Belly and upper coverts are chestnut. Wings and back are black. When in flight, the underwings appear chestnut, and it has black flight feathers. It has short and squared white tail. The head is white too. Eyes are chestnut to pale brown. Bill is black and yellow. Legs and feet are yellow.

The immature has duller upperparts, spotted with brown. The underparts are rather whitish with broad blackish spots on belly, and streaked chest. The tail is white, heavily spotted with black. They reach their adult plumage at about five years old.
Chicks are covered with white down. Bill is horn and pale yellow. Legs are pink.  

African Fish-Eagle’s call is very well known where it is living, and it is often known as the “Africa’s voice”.
It has a typical call, a loud barking carrying far, “whii-oh-hyo-hyo-hyo”, frequently uttered, and almost similar to gull’s calls. It often calls while flying, and it is noisier at dawn. Close to the nest, it utters a soft “quock”. Female is noiseless than male. 

African Fish-Eagle lives near large streams, lakes and marshes. It can be found near coastal lagoons and dams, and in estuaries.
It is an African species. We can find it in south and east of Sahara, and in Madagascar.

African Fish-Eagle is sedentary. It is a fish-eagle. They live in pairs close to the streams. Very active and agile, it is quite able to perform bold aerial displays, and it will dive entirely into the water to hunt a prey. It hunts starting from a perch, generally a large tree close to the water, from where it can watch over the place. It performs an approach in soft descent, and kicks out its talons ahead, almost stopping its flight to catch its prey, usually at about fifteen centimetres under the surface. It can capture fish of up to one kg, and sometimes of up to 3 kg. But beyond 2,5 kg, it cannot take it in flight. Then, it glides above the water to the shore, pulling its prey.

It may remain hours on its perch, up to 85 to 95% of the day.
It may steal prey from other birds, and attack Shore birds’ clutches, taking eggs and chicks.
It is highly territorial all year round, and can be very aggressive. It calls when a bird approaches too close, but it is able to take off if an intruder enters its territory. It chases the intruder away from its territory, or, more classic, it attacks from behind. It also can seize the intruder with its talons, and make it go down, sometimes up to one hundred metres, leaving it at the last moment, near water or ground. Sometimes, they may fall together among roots and trees. Some attacks may be fatal.

When soaring or gliding in the air, African Fish-Eagle has held flat or slightly raised wings. Very agile, it performs aerial displays in order to catch its preys. It has very broad wings in flight, slightly behind.  

African Fish-Eagle’s nest is huge and made with sticks. It may reach 120 to 180 cm in diameter, and 30 to 60 cm in depth, sometimes 120 cm when the nest is reused several times. It is lined with grasses, green leaves and roots. It is located between 4 and 22 metres above the ground, in a fork in tree, near water. It is rarely found on cliffs or in bushes in steep slopes.
The female lays two white eggs. Incubation lasts about 42 to 45 days, shared by both parents. Chicks remain at nest for about 65 days. They can fly at about 70 to 75 days of age, but they are still raised by female (male feeds only the chicks). They depend from their parents for two months more after their first flight.

African Fish-Eagle feeds mainly on fish, but it also consumes carrion, eggs and chicks of shore birds, some aquatic birds (larger than flamingos), more rarely monkeys, lizards, frogs, sea-turtles or insects.

Populations are not threatened. However, African Fish-Eagle is vulnerable in Namibia where it is found in small numbers. Any decline in South Africa, despite the high level of pollution by pesticides.   

Fr: Pygargue vocifère
All : Schreiseeadler
Esp : Pigargo Vocinglero
Ital : Aquila pescatrice africana
Nd : Afrikaanse Zeearend
Russe : Орлан-крикун
Sd:  Skrikhavsörn


Callie de Wet

Text by Nicole Bouglouan


BIRDS OF PREY OF AFRICA AND ITS ISLANDS by Alan and Meg Kemp - Struik Publishers - ISBN: 1770073698

BIRDS OF AFRICA SOUTH OF THE SAHARA by Ian Sinclair and Peter Ryan - Princeton University Press Princeton and Oxford - ISBN: 0691118159

Avibase (Lepage Denis)

Wikipedia (Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia)

The Hawk Conservancy Trust (Hilary Smith)


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