Ayres’ Hawk-Eagle: The Ultimate Guide

If you’ve ever been remotely interested in birds of prey, then you might already come across the Ayres’ Hawk-eagle. This bird really represents what we all think of when we picture an eagle.

With a mottled plumage, a noble hooked beak and a majestic wingspan, you can be sure that it will strike awe and fear into anyone who spies it.

This hawk is native to the African woodland, preferring to nest in the high trees to spot prey or avoid predators themselves. The name of this creature is derived from the world-famous ornithologist Thomas Ayres. This bird can be found in patches of sub-Saharan Africa.

This creature has evolved into an apex predator, meaning that you won’t catch it being run down by any other animal. It has developed razor-sharp claws that it can use to keep a firm hold of prey as it soars across the desert plains.

This creature has also developed a hooked beak that it uses to strip flesh away from bone.

So where can you find this creature? How does it mate? What is the breeding season for this bird? How aggressive is it towards human beings? How long does it live? What are its nesting habits? What sound does it make when it wants food or a mate? How do they breed?

Well, if you want to know all of this info and a lot more, then we would suggest that you keep reading. We have all the information that you need for this animal.

Not only will you be able to spot this one from a distance, but you’ll be able to wow your friends and family with intimate knowledge of this creature’s habits.


This has black and white upper parts that have a brown tinge to them. It has a broad and black tail with ash grey stripes and black bars across the base. This has splotches of black on the underbelly.

The legs of this creature are entirely white, which is what will help you to mark it out for other creatures of the same type. The underwing areas have white patches, with some of the under feathers having grey splotches and dark bars on the outer edge.

The eyes are a striking yellow or orange color, the cere and feet being yellow with the bill being a bluish color. The beak has a hooked shape with a black tip at the end.

Male Vs Female

The males of this species are generally a lot smaller than the female, as well as being much darker. They are more concreted when it comes to the spots on their underparts, with much dark coloring overall. The males also have a smaller portion of white on their heads also.

Are They Aggressive?

These birds can be very aggressive, especially if they are cornered or they feel that their nests are being threatened. However, despite rumours to the contrary, this creature will rarely attack human beings without warning.

Often people use attacks on poultry and small animals at their farm to justify killing these birds. However, attacks on farms are very rare occurrences, as these creatures like to stick to their densely forested areas.

What Adaptations Do They Have?

These eagles have heavier beaks that they can use to more easily tear through the flesh of the small mammals and insects that they like to eat. They also have very heavy and muscular toes for ripping through animal flesh.

They also have some of the best eyesight in the animal kingdom. They will be able to spot prey from miles away in the undergrowth. This keen sense of eyesight is also good at observing potential threats and prey during the dim dusk hours.

This bird also has a larger wingspan that will help them to stay in the air for much longer. This will also make their flight path faster and a lot more direct. This bird is also used to carrying larger prey, so it has the body size and bulk to match.

Breeding/reproduction Behaviour

This bird will tend to be a monogamous and very isolated breeder, often sticking with one female or male that they will mate for throughout their lives. They will often build nests in the fork of a high tree.

The breeding season for this animal will usually start around April and conclude around September time. They will usually lay only one egg, which the female will incubate over the course of 43 days. The male will help bring in the found around once every 2 to 3 days.

The chick is fed daily and will usually be ready to leave the nest after 73 days old. This means that it will be ready to fly the nest after around 3 months.

Their Calls/Sounds

This bird has a deep and rasping rattle that it uses to scare away predators or call to a mate. It sounds like a loud and repeated ‘kee-ya’. The female will use a much more muted call when she is trying to attract a mate.

An Ayres’ Hawk-eagle chick will often screech for a while if they are looking to be fed. If you are in the woods of South Africa, you’ll be able to detect this bird’s nest from its distinctive cries.

What Do They Eat? (Diet)

This mighty creature will usually seek to target other birds like doves and pigeons. When it singles out a solitary bird, it will often swoop in to intercept it during the middle of its flight. This creature has been known to be quite savage when it is attacking its prey.

There have also been recorded incidents where this creature has managed to eat fruit bats and bush squirrels nesting in the nearby trees.

Where Do They Live? (Habitat)

This bird can often be found in the woods of Southern Africa, usually in areas of Sierra Leone, Somalia, Namibia and other areas in western Africa.

What Are Their Nesting Habits?

Ayres' Hawk-Eagle

This bird will often build its nest in the crook of a tree, with the male and the female both helping out to construct the nest. It is made from strong twigs and bracken, with grass that can be used to line the bottom of the nest to stop the chicks from slipping through.

These birds have larger nests to accommodate both the parents and the chick. They will often be built in high trees to avoid predators and other threats.

How long Do They Live? (Lifespan)

These eagle birds will usually live anywhere between 15 and 30 years in the wild. Some birds in captivity have been recorded to live longer.

What Predators Do They Have?

These animals are considered to be apex predators, so they have no natural predators in the wild. However, sometimes lesser birds have been known to rush the nest of this eagle to get to the eggs.

What Are Their Feathers Like?

The feathers of this beast are black, both primary and secondary. They have mottled coloring on the head and the underparts are largely white and brown. The legs are entirely white, made up of smaller downy feathers.

What Does Their Poop Look Like?

This bird has white and stringy poop, which can often be found running from the trees and on the bottom of the trunk. This is how you can tell that there is an Ayres’ Hawk-Eagle in the nearby vicinity.

Do They Migrate?

This bird does tend to migrate in the winter season, although it only goes further towards the South African equator. In the rainy season, it will move to the more deciduous areas of South Africa.

The rains will often cause the leaves in the savannah to emerge, which is why you’ll find this hawk there during the Autumn season.

Conservation Status

This creature is quite uncommon in general, but there has been no report of a dramatic change in numbers during this time. This creature is not hunted and the only reason that its numbers might be reduced is because of deforestation by humans.

The conservation status of this creature is one of ‘least concern’, which means that there is no immediately widespread threat to their numbers.

Fun Facts

This hawk-eagle is similar to other varieties of hawk-eagle, although it has more prominent black underparts.

This bird often covers vast distances, flying from the North to the South of South Africa in just a few weeks!

Sometimes this eagle will venture into more urban areas in order to catch feral doves and small mammals. However, it tends to avoid any area that might be too built up by humans.