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South Africa Holiday: True Eagles

Eagles are medium to large birds of prey with long, broad wings and feathered legs, which distinguish them from Snake Eagles and Buzzards. South Africa provides fantastic opportunities to see a wide range of eagles (see also African Fish Eagle, Snake Eagles and Bateleur on a separate pages).

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African Hawk Eagle and Ayres' Eagle

Afrikaans: Jagarend and Kleinjagarend respectively
The bold black spotting on the white underparts, extending on to the belly and legs, help differentiate the Ayres' Eagle from the African Hawk Eagle.
The African Hawk Eagle is easily identified in flight: a dark central stripe which runs from the wing base to the carpel joint and along the forewing, which is lacking in the Ayres' Eagle.
Habitat: Both eagles can be found in the north-east of South Africa, frequenting open thornveld and wooded areas but avoiding evergreen forests.

Black Eagle (Verreaux's Eagle)

Afrikaans: Witkruisarend
In flight, the Black Eagle shows a diagnostic white V on its back, and a white rump. At rest the black plumage is relieved only by two white lines down the back, and the yellow cere and feet.
Habitat: Uncommon throughout the region. Prefers coastal cliffs and mountainous regions frequented by dassies.

Booted Eagle

Afrikaans: Dwergarend
This small eagle has two colour phases: during both of these it differs from Wahlberg's Eagle by its shorter, broader tail and broader wings. From above a small white patch at the base of the forewing gives the impression of a air of white braces.
Habitat: Uncommon and thinly distributed throughout South Africa.

Crowned Eagle

Afrikaans: Kroonerend
The dark colouration, huge size (80-90cm long) and the shape identify the Crowned Eagle. It is dark grey above and rufus belly, with breast and belly heavily mottled black. In flight it shows well rounded wings and a long tail.
Habitat: Thinly distributed in a narrow strip along the south and east cost up into Kruger National Park, preferring dense evergreen forests.

Lesser-spotted eagle

Afrikaans: Geviekte Arend
A small dark eagle which differs from Wahlberg's Eagle by having a short rounded tail. At rest the tightly feathered legs appear unusually thin.
Habitat: An uncommon summer visitor found in the north east of South Africa, often in company of Steppe Eagles over thornveld.

Long-crested Eagle

Afrikaans: Langkuifarend
The combination of dull black plumage, white legs and long wispy crest render the Long-crested Eagle unmistakable. Flight action is fast and direct on stiffly held wings with shallow wing beats.
Habitat: Found from Limpopo down to the Eastern Cape in well wooded country and forest edges.

Martial Eagle

Afrikaans: Breekoparend
The dark head, throat and upper breast combined with white, lightly spotted breast and belly, and very dark underwings are diagnostic in this huge eagle.
Habitat: Frequents a wide range of habitats throughout South Africa, from desert to mountains, but is uncommon.

Steppe eagle

Afrikaans: Steppe Arende
The plumage of the Steppe eagle is too variable for separation from the Tawny Eagle. In flight it shows a more curved "S" trailing edge to the wing than the Tawny Eagle.
Habitat: An uncommon summer visitor to the north east of South Africa.

Tawny Eagle

Afrikaans: Roofarend
Difficult to distinguish from the Steppe Eagle. Both species are very variable in colour, ranging from almost white to dark brown.
Habitat: Thornveld and semis-desert areas in the central, north and eats of South Africa. Common in the major game reserves but thinly distributed elsewhere.

Wahlberg's Eagle

Afrikaans: Bruin Arend
Usually a dark brown bird but has pale and intermediated phases. The flight shape is diagnostic with long straight-edged wings and a long, narrow, square-ended tail.
Habitat: Common summer visitor from central Africa to the north and east of South Africa. Frequents a wide range of habitats from woodland to agricultural areas.
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