Haliaeetus vocifer, Photo: Michael Lahanas
Haliaeetus vocifer (Daudin, 1800)
Traite élémentaire et complet d'Ornithologie 2 p.65
The African Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer) or–to distinguish it from the true fish eagles (Ichthyophaga), the African Sea Eagle–is a large species of eagle. It is the national bird of Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Its closest relative appears to be the critically endangered Madagascar Fish-eagle (H. vociferoides). Like all sea-eagle species pairs, this one consists of a white-headed species (the African Fish Eagle) and a tan-headed one. These are an ancient lineage of sea-eagles, and as such have dark talons, beaks, and eyes (Wink et al. 1996). Both species have at least partially white tails even as juveniles.
Range and habitat
This species is still quite common near freshwater lakes, reservoirs, or rivers, although they can sometimes be found near the coast at the mouths of rivers or lagoons. As their name implies, African Fish Eagles are indigenous to Africa, ranging over most of continental Africa south of the southern-most edge of the Sahara Desert.
The female lays 1 to 3 eggs, which are primarily white with a few reddish speckles. Incubation is mostly done by the female, but the male will incubate when the female leaves to hunt. Incubation lasts for 42 to 45 days before the chicks hatch. The eggs will often hatch a few days apart, and the eldest chick will usually kill any younger chicks. Fledging lasts for 70 to 75 days, and after about 8 weeks the chick is capable of feeding itself and will usually begin to venture outside of the nest 2 weeks later.
The African Fish Eagle feeds mainly on fish, which, upon spying it from a perch in a tree, it will swoop down upon and snatch from the water with its large clawed talons and fly back to its perch to eat. Should the African Fish Eagles catch a fish over 1.8 kg (4 pounds) it will be too heavy to allow it to get lift, so it will instead drag the fish across the surface of the water until it reaches the shore. If it catches a fish that is too heavy to even allow the eagle to sustain flight, it will drop into the water and paddle to the nearest shore with its wings. It will also feed on waterfowl, small turtles, baby crocodiles, Greater flamingos, Lesser Flamingos, and carrion.
The bird figures in the coat of arms of Namibia.
* BirdLife International (2004). Haliaeetus vocifer. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 12 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
Source: Wikipedia, Wikispecies: All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License