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African Hawk-eagle
Aquila spilogaster

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Stable.

Other Names: African Eagle, African Hawk Eagle, Hieraaetus spilogaster.

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Aquila spilogaster
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Distribution: Afrotropical. SENEGAMBIA east to ETHIOPIA and SOMALIA and south to northeastern SOUTH AFRICA. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic.

Taxonomy: Based on a molecular phylogenetic analysis, using DNA sequences of one mitochondrial and three nuclear genes, Helbig et al. (2005) recommended that both Hieraaetus fasciatus and H. spilogaster be merged into the genus Aquila, and their data indicated that both species are most closely related to A. verreauxii. The study of Lerner and Mindell (2005), based on molecular sequences of two mitochondrial genes and one nuclear gene, showed that the genus Aquila, as presently constituted in most phylogenetic treatments, is not monophyletic. They found that Aquila chrysaetos, Spizaetus africanus, Hieraaetus fasciatus, A. verreauxii, A. audax, and A. gurneyi form a closely related clade. The form spilogaster has sometimes been treated as a subspecies of fasciata (Sinclair et al. 2002), but most recent authors (e.g., Thiollay 1994, Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001) have regarded them as separate species. This treatment was also supported by Wink and Sauer-Gürth (2000, 2004) and Lerner and Mindell (op cit.), who found that the genetic distances between individuals of fasciata and spilogaster are greater than those in other sister pairs of undisputed "booted eagle" species.

Movements: Non-migratory. According to Bildstein (2006), juveniles disperse from breeding populations, but Steyn (1982) suspected that they probably remain in the general area in which they are reared. Based on ringing recoveries, most adults seem to move little, with the mean distance from the point of ringing of all but one of eight recoveries being 25 km (Oatley et al. 1998). However, one ringed adult moved a distance of 795 km from the Northern Province of South Africa to Victoria Falls on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border, perhaps a response to a prolonged dry spell and diminishing food resources (Simmons 1997, Oatley et al. op cit.). more....

Habitat and Habits: Occurs in semi-arid open woodland, savanna with scattered trees, and dry riparian forest. Commonly occurs singly or in pairs, perching on trees or frequently soaring high overhead. more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds mainly on small mammals up to the size of a hare and gamebirds, which are taken from the ground after aerial pursuit. According to Dowsett et al. (2008), it is common only in areas where game birds are numerous. more....

Breeding: Builds a large stick nest placed in a tree, often in riparian areas or on hill slopes (Steyn 1982), or sometimes on a cliff (Ash and Miskell 1998). Clutch size is usually two eggs, sometimes only one. more....

Conservation: Widespread throughout sub-Saharan Africa, but secretive and overlooked, and its distribution is somewhat patchy. There is some direct persecution of this species because it preys on poultry (Benson and Benson 1977, Simmons 1997). Categorized globally as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International. more....

Population Estimates: Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2001) estimated the global population (defined as the number of adults and immatures at the start of the breeding season) at 100,000 or more birds, noting that "it is safe to assume that it lies between the upper tens and lower hundreds of thousands." BirdLife International (2009) estimated the number of adults at 100,000 birds, but noted that the supporting data are poor. Tarboton and Allan (1984) estimated the former Transvaal population at about 1,600 pairs, and Simmons (1997) extrapolated from that figure to project a total population of about 7,000 pairs in the southern African region. more....

Important References: 
Brown, L.H., E.K. Urban, and K. Newman. 1982. The birds of Africa. Vol. 1.
  Academic Press, London.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Kemp, A.C. 1994. African Hawk-eagle. P. 199 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. 1997. African Hawk-eagle. Pp. 188-189 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.
Simmons, R.E. 2005. African Hawk-Eagle Aquila spilogaster. Pp. 533-534 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.
Steyn, P. 1982. Birds of prey of southern Africa: their identification and
  life histories. David Phillip, Cape Town, South Africa.

Sites of Interest:
African Hawk-eagle photos.

Deacon, Neil
Middleton, Angus
Steyn, Peter

Last modified: 10/13/2010

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: African Hawk-eagle Aquila spilogaster. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 12 Jun. 2021

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