Crowned Hawk-Eagle: The Ultimate Guide

Crowned hawk-eagles are considered the most powerful African raptors. They possess the power and strength to kill anything up to 44 lbs (20 kg). Not only are they considered the most powerful, but they are also the largest eagle in Africa.

The crowned hawk-eagle belongs to the Accipitridae family and is the coconatus species. Their scientific name is Stephanoaetus coronatus. These esteemed birds of prey are great predators. They possess quality and features that make them stand out from other hawk-eagles. 

Crowned hawk-eagles can be found across a range of habitats in several countries and regions across Africa. Most common in the south, their habitat can be anything from forests to the Sahara to riversides. 

The threat against crowned hawk-eagles is moderately increasing. The biggest threat they currently face is the loss of habitat which is rapidly increasing as human activity increases.

These threats are contributing to the decline in crowned hawk-eagle numbers.

The following shows a guide packed with all the information you need to know about the crowned hawk-eagle and all its glory. 


Crowned hawk-eagles are considered the largest and most powerful African raptors. They have a distinctive appearance with unique features. 

They possess large sharp talons at the top of powerful, muscular feet. They have a strong long tail making for excellent maneuverability.

The facial features consist of a dark grey face with piercing yellow, cat-like eyes. A strong hooked black beak enables them to rip apart meat. They have a distinctive crest above their eyes.

Juvenile crowned hawk-eagles reach full plumage after 6 years. 

Crowned hawk-eagles are the largest eagles in Africa. Females weigh around 7-10 lbs (3.2-4.7 kg), whilst males weigh around 6-9 lbs (2.7-4.1 kg).

They have a wingspan of 152-180 cm (5-5.9 ft) and are about 31-39 inches (81-99 cm) tall. All of these features put together make for a deadly predator. 

Male Vs Female

There are a couple of differences between male and female crowned hawk-eagles. The first is that like most raptors, female crowned hawk-eagles are larger than males. They can also be identified by their shorter crest.  

Another significant difference between male and female crowned hawk-eagles is the difference in their call. A female sounds a lower-pitched and musical call when they are in their nest.

Juvenile crowned hawk-eagles are paler than adults. They have lighter pale grey-colored heads and underparts.

Are They Aggressive?

Crowned hawk-eagles are known for being aggressive. Their strength and size enable them to snatch and kill anything up to 44 lbs (20 kg). They will attack anything that approaches their nest or territory. 

What Adaptations Do They Have?

Crowned hawk-eagles are considered an esteemed predators, this status has been awarded to them for their power and strength. Certain adaptations have given crowned hawk-eagles outstanding features. 


Crowned hawk-eagles have extremely powerful feet and sharp talons. The power in their feet enables them to squeeze their prey to death and their talons are sharp enough to dismember its captive.  

The power in their legs enables them to perform a vertical take-off. 


Crowned hawk-eagles have short broad wings but a rather large wingspan. The tail consists of longer fanned feathers. This lethal combination along with their power enables them to swoop after prey at 100 miles per hour (160 km).

Mid-flight, they can break at a halt within 20 ft (6 m). One of their most deadly qualities is that they fly silently, quieter than an owl. This enables them to catch their prey by surprise.

Breeding / Reproduction Behaviour


Male crowned hawk-eagles perform a courtship flight. This flight consists of looping, diving, and flapping motions to attract the attention of a female. This flight dance is paired with loud calls in which, if the female is interested, she will join in and call back. Once matched they lock talons in the air and glide down.

Male crowned hawk-eagles are known to display affection by running around a female crowned hawk-eagle with their wings raised. 


Female crowned hawk-eagles lay 1-2 eggs. Crowned hawk-eagles are known to breed once every two years. Their breeding season runs from July through to October after rainfall. 

The eggs they lay are usually of a white creamy color. The eggs are incubated by the female for about 50 days. During this time, the male crowned hawk-eagle brings food to the nest for its partner. 

Young Crowned Hawk-Eagles

Crowned hawk-eagle chicks, like their parents, have a crest above their head, giving them a cat-like appearance. However, this crown doesn’t develop until after 2 months of age. The chicks also don’t start developing their feathers until about 76 days.

Chicks tend to take their first light at about 4 months but will begin exercises in preparation for flight at 45-50 days. 

The chick doesn’t leave the nest until around 115 days. 


Male and female crowned hawk-eagles work together to raise their young. The parents bring their young food at intervals of 3-5 days at a time. They continue to do this even after their chick has fledged and will do this for them for another 9-11 months.

Crowned hawk-eagle parents tend to stay in the vicinity of their nest, always keeping an eye out but perching somewhere close. Young crowned hawk-eagles become fully independent when they start ignoring the food brought them by their parents.

Juvenile crowned hawk-eagles reach sexual maturity at around 4 years old. 

Their Calls / Sounds

Crowned hawk-eagles sound a high-pitched call during flight. This call is also made by both parents before they bring their young food, however, this call is higher and a little lighter. The chicks will answer back with the same call. 

What Do They Eat? 

Crowned hawk-eagles are carnivores. As esteemed predators, they go after what they want. Flying silently they swoop down and grab their prey. Most prey is killed on the ground and either flown back to the safety of their territory, which is where they prefer to eat. Or, anything that they can’t carry they will eat on the group and shred with their talons. 

A crowned hawk-eagles diet consists of hunting game, eating mammals such as primates, mongooses, etc; reptiles such as large snakes and lizards; as well as rodents and carrion.

They hunt early in the morning and in the evening. 

Where Do They Live? 

Crowned hawk-eagles can be found across a wide range of regions from southern African to the west and the east of Africa. They live in several countries, a few being, Senegal, Guinea, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe. 

They also live across a vast range of habitats from forests, dense woodlands, hills, mountains, and riversides. Their preferred habitat is forest. Their more common residence is within forests in south African forests. They tend to perch in tall trees waiting and looking for prey.

What Are Their Nesting Habits?

Crowned hawk-eagles occupy large nests. Their nest is built up of sticks and green branches by both the male and female crowned hawk-eagles. Crowned hawk-eagles keep and reuse the same nest every breeding season and continually add to it over the years. Their nests can get rather large, growing up to 8 ft (2.4 m) across and 10 ft (3 m) deep. 

Once the couple dies, a new pair will inherit the nest and go through the same nesting habits. 

How Long Do They Live For?

Crowned hawk-eagles live up to 15 years.

What Predators Do They Have?

Humans are their most prevalent threat. The crowned hawk-eagles are threatened by hunting, habitat loss caused by human interference, and egg collection.

What Are Their Feathers Like?

Crowned hawk-eagles have thick feathered thighs. Their upper body is made up of dark grey and brown feathers. The underparts of the crowned hawk-eagles breast and belly are rufous with patches of black and white. 

Crowned hawk-eagle feathers are relatively short but broad. Their underwings are made up of a chestnut, dark grey, and white stripe pattern.

Do They Migrate?

Crowned hawk-eagles are sedentary. They tend to stay in the same areas within their territory and live in the same nest. However, juvenile crowned hawk-eagles move a little more, they travel further to disperse from the breeding area.

What Is Their Conservation Status?

Crowned hawk-eagles are near threatened, widespread threats suggest that their numbers are in rapid decline.

The biggest threat that they currently face is the loss of their habitat. This comes as a result of deforestation. The decline in numbers is also a result of human activity such as shooting, trapping, egg collection, and nest destruction.

Fun Facts About Crowned Hawk-Eagles

  • Did you know that crowned hawk-eagles consider human babies as prey? They have been known to carry away human toddlers. 
  • Did you know that crowned hawk-eagles can kill animals weighing up to 44 lbs (20 kg)?
  • Did you know that crowned hawk-eagles partners hunt together?
  • Did you know that if there are two chicks, the stronger, usually kills the weaker one after hatching?