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Martial Eagle
Polemaetus bellicosus

Accipitriforme Order – Accipitridae Family

Length: 78-83 cm ; Wingspan: 190-260 cm ; Weight: 3-6,2 kg

Martial Eagle is the largest and strongest of African eagles.

Upperparts are dark brown. Belly is white, streaked with black. Underwing coverts are brown, with whitish flight feathers, finely streaked with black. Tail is white streaked with black.
It has dark brown head, neck, chin, throat and upper breast. It shows a small crest on crown. It has piercing yellow eyes. Head is flat and broad. Bill is blackish with pale yellow base, and hooked. Long legs are feathered, white streaked with black. Talons are strong and yellow.
Usually, female is more streaked than male, and it is larger.

Immature are paler above, and they have white plumage on the underparts. They reach adult plumage at about 7 years.

Martial Eagle utters a weak whistling “hlueee-oh” high pitched, near the nest or when it is excited.
It utters also a display call on a wing or from a perch, a clear series of “klee-klee-klee-kloeee-kloeee-kulee”.
When they see the food, young may make a ‘kwip” or a gulping ‘quolp”.
But Martial Eagle is not a noisy bird.  

Martial Eagle lives in savannah and thorn bush areas, but we also can find it in open lands and semi-desert. Usually, it avoids woodlands, but occasionally, it may breed in forest at the edge of open lands.

Martial Eagle lives in Africa, South of Sahara, from Senegal to Somalia, and southward to the Cape.

Martial Eagle may hunt as well in flight as from a perch. It does most of its hunting from the soar. It kills or attacks, making a long slanting stoop at great speed, or making a gentle descent into an opening in the bush.
It may hunt from a perch, but rarely. Often, it kills surprising a prey in open land by the speed of its attack.

A pair may have a food area of about up to 50 square miles. They often hunt in one area during some days, and then, they move to another.
Martial Eagle is relatively shy, and keeps away from human. It is not migratory, only performing local movements, involving flights of several hundred miles.
Martial Eagle is very powerful, capable to have enough power in one foot to break a man’s arm.

Martial Eagle spends much of its time flying, soaring often at very great height, becoming almost invisible.
When it descends, it controls its speed by the angle at which wings are held above its back.

Martial Eagle’s nest is located in trees, at height from 20 to 80 feet above the ground. It often chooses the largest tree of the area, to have a clear sweep off the nest. Nest has a huge structure, 4 to 6 feet of diameter, and up to 4 feet thick), often broader on base than it is deep. It is made with large wood sticks, and lined with green leaves. Nest may be used by several birds for many years.

During the dry season, the female lays one single egg, chalky white to pale greenish blue, mainly in April to July. Incubation lasts about 45 days, by female, but male may sit on nest. Female is not fed by male, and leaves the nest to feed.
When it hatches, the chick is very weak, and becomes active after 20 days. Feathers begin to grow at 32 days, and the bird gets its plumage at 70 days.
Both parents feed the young, until it is 60 days old and well feathered. Then, it starts to tear up the prey alone.

At the beginning of fledging period, female remains near the nest and male brings preys during the first 50 days. After, she hunts and brings prey herself, and male rarely appears.
Female broods the chick the first two weeks, and after this time, only at night.
At 100 days old, young makes its first flight but returns to roost in the nest for some days, but after, it remains loosely attached to the nest site for some time, and it remains not too far during 6 months.
This species produces 2 broods every three years, in the same nest.

Martial Eagle feeds on birds (francolins, young bustards, and poultry), mammals such as small antelopes, some monkeys, young domestic goats and lambs. It may eat also few snakes and large lizards.
It feeds on availabilities of the area where is living and hunting.

Martial Eagle is killed by farmers, because it hunts some domestic animals.
This species has a slow reproduction rate, and persecution could have a major impact on the population. 

Fr: Aigle Martial
All : Kampfadler
Esp : Águila Marcial
Ital:  Aquila marziale
Nd:  Vechtarend
Russe:  Боевой орёл

Photographs of adult eagle by Steve Garvie
RAINBIRDER Photo galleries

Photographs of immature eagle by Callie de Wet

Text by Nicole Bouglouan


HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD Vol 2 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliot-Jordi Sargatal - Lynx Edicions - ISBN: 8487334156

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

Avibase (Lepage Denis)

The Hawk Conservancy Trust (Hilary Smith)

Wikipedia (Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia)


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