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Verreaux's Eagle
Aquila verreauxii

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Stable.

Other Names: African Black Eagle, Black Eagle.

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Aquila verreauxii
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Distribution: Afrotropical/Palearctic. ISRAEL, southeastern Arabian Peninsula, EGYPT (Sinai), southern CHAD and western SUDAN south through ETHIOPIA, SOMALIA, and KENYA to SOUTH AFRICA. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic.

Taxonomy: The molecular phylogenetic analysis of Lerner and Mindell (2005), based on the molecular sequences of two mitochondrial and one nuclear genes, showed that the genus Aquila, as presently constituted in most phylogenetic treatments, is not monophyletic. They found that the Aquila chrysaetos, Spizaetus africanus, Hieraaetus fasciatus, A. verreauxii, A. audax, and A. gurneyi form a clade of closely related species. Helbig et al. (2005) found similar relationships, based on DNA sequences from one mitochondrial and three nuclear genes. Earlier, a close relationship among A. chrysaetos, A. audax, A. gurneyi, and A. verreauxii was proposed by Brown and Amadon (1968), based on morphological data. To most southern Africans, this is the "Black Eagle," but the vernacular name "Verreaux's Eagle" is used here, somewhat reluctantly, to distinguish this species from the Asian Ictinaetus malayensis, which is also widely known as the "Black Eagle."

Movements: Partial migrant, with juveniles dispersing from breeding areas (Bildstein 2006). According to Gargett (1990), adults show strong fidelity to their breeding territory, but non-breeding birds, especially subadults, may move significant distances. However, Hartley (1998) regarded this species as sedentary in Zimbabwe. About 400 birds, including some that were captured and relocated for management purposes, were ringed in South Africa by 1998 (Oatley et al. 1998).

Habitat and Habits: Prefers gorges, rocky foothills, and montane habitats and is more common in xeric areas than in grassland and woodland vegetation types. Brown et al. (1982) stated that it is present in areas with annual rainfall <750 mm and/or montane areas to 5,000 m. It perches on prominent lookouts, often in pairs, and soars along rock faces or higher. In much of its range, its abundance is highly correlated with the density of rock hyraxes (Gargett 1975). more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds mainly on rock hyraxes (Procavbis capensis) in the southern portion of its range, but also on hares, other small mammals, birds, and reptiles. Also occasionally takes carrion. Often hunts in tandem with one bird probably distracting the prey while the other attacks. more....

Breeding: The nest is a huge stick structure nest placed on a rocky cliff, tree, or, rarely, on a pylon (Griesel 2004), and it is used in successive years with more sticks being added each year. The clutch size is 1-2 eggs, which are white and unmarked. The incubation period is about 44 days, and the nestling period is 13-14 weeks. Eggs are laid 3-4 days apart, and usually only one chick survives as the result of cainism. The frequency of breeding is irregular and occurs on average in two years out of three. more....

Conservation: Widespread in suitable habitat throughout most of Africa and locally common in some regions. One of the best-studied eagle species in the world, owing to the monumental efforts of Valerie Gargett and her associates in Zimbabwe, and the population in the Matobo Hills has now been monitored for 45 years (Chiweshe 2007). This species is persecuted by small-stock farmers (Boshoff et al. 1983, Tarboton and Allan 1984), but less so than other large African eagles, owing to its choice of rocky, hilly habitat and the fact that it does not often feed on carrion. However, it is very dependent in many areas on hyraxes for food, and where these animals are heavily hunted for skins and food, the eagles have shown marked declines (Chiweshe op cit.). Categorized globally as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International, but populations may be declining overall. more....

Population Estimates: Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2001) placed the global population (defined as the number of adults and immatures at the start of the breeding season) in the range of 10,001 to 100,000 individuals, while remarking that the total population seems unlikely to exceed the upper tens of thousands. BirdLife International (2009) also estimated the number of mature birds in the 10,000 to 100,000 range, while noting that the supporting data for this estimate were poor. more....

Important References: 
Brown, L.H., E.K. Urban, and K. Newman. 1982. The birds of Africa. Vol. 1.
  Academic Press, London.
Davies, R.A.G., and D.G. Allan. 1997. Black Eagle. Pp. 175-177 in J.A.
  Harrison et al. (eds.), The atlas of South African birds. Volume 1:
  Non-passerines. BirdLife South Africa and Avian Demography
  Unit, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Gargett, V. 1990. The Black Eagle. Acorn Books & Russel Friedman,
  Johannesburg, South Africa.
Kemp, A.C. 1994. Verreaux's Eagle. P. 198 in del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott,
  and J. Sargatal (eds). Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New World
  vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Simmons, R.E. 2005. Verreaux's Eagle Aquila verreauxii. Pp. 531-532 in
  P.A.R. Hockey, W.R.J. Dean, and P.G. Ryan (eds.), Roberts Birds of Southern
  Africa. 7th ed. Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town,
  South Africa.

Current Research: Sightings of wing-tagged Verreaux's Eagles in southern Africa should be reported to Lucia Rodrigues at signet@mweb.co.za or 083-325-8881, or André Botha at andreb@ewt.org or 082-962-5725.

Sites of Interest:
The Black Eagle Project Roodekrans
A site devoted to the famous Black (Verreaux's) Eagles nesting pair at Witpoortjie Falls, South Africa.
Verreaux's Eagle photos.

Chiweshe, Ngoni
Deacon, Neil
Middleton, Angus
Simmons, Rob
Steyn, Peter

Last modified: 2/17/2011

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: Verreaux's Eagle Aquila verreauxii. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 12 Jun. 2021

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