Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Meet the sheriff

We tend to concentrate on the big and harries, and forget about the smaller reptiles and birds.
Today I wanted to write about birds and decided to go right for the big boy, the sheriff amongst birds so to speak. This bird is bound to get even the non-birders attention. The Martial Eagle, the largest eagle in Africa and one of the most impressive birds to encounter while on safari.

They are the largest of the African eagles and incredibly powerful, capable of knocking an adult man off his feet. They reputedly have enough power in one foot to break a man's arm. The largest eagle in Africa and one of the largest in the world, the Martial eagle weighs in at almost 6.5 Kg. The upperparts are dark brown with a white belly with black streaks; the legs are white and have very large talons. The immature bird looks quite different from the adult. The adult eagle has a body length of between 78 and 86 cms , a wingspan between 1.9 and 2.6 m

In some areas birds form an important part of the diet, including guineafowl, francolins, bustards, and poultry. Birds as large as a European Stork are recorded to have fallen prey to the Martial Eagle.
Martial Eagles feed on gamebirds, hares, hyraxes, small antelopes, monitor lizards and other medium sized vertebrates. Nests are built invariably in trees, high above ground, but often in the largest tree in the area, growing on a steep hillside or in a gorge, where the bird has a clear sweep off the nest. Martial Eagles form monogamous pairs and they usually mate for life. Pairs tend to breed once every two years and the breeding season correlates with the dry season across their geographic range. Females lay 1 - 2 eggs and incubation takes approximately 45 - 50 days. Between 90 and 100 days after hatching the youngsters are ready to fledge.

They prefer uninhabited stretches of thornbush and savannah found over much of Africa, occurring also in open plains and semi-desert country. It spends much of its time on the wing, and is usually seen soaring about hill slopes, often at a very great height rendering it almost invisible to the naked eye. Early in the morning before it takes to the wing for the day, or in the evening prior to roosting it can be seen perched in trees.

Interesting Facts: Martial Eagles are the only member of the genus Polemaetus.

These photos were taken by Corne Schalkwyk during a visit to Mweya Safari lodge – while on Safari with Premier Safaris in Uganda.

Birding Safaris in Uganda  - Premier Safaris  visit or email 
To visit the lodge: Mweya Safari lodge is part of the Marasa Africa Group of lodges