The majestic Verreaux eagle is a fascinating member of the bird of prey family. Its scientific name is Aquild and is named after Jules Verreaux, who was a French botanist and visited Africa in the 18th century. It’s a large, jet black bird and resides in South and East Africa amongst the mountainous areas.
The Verreaux belongs to the Accipitridae family. They are powerful birds, and it isn’t surprising they have been a symbol of war and power since Roman and Greek times. Pictures of these amazing birds can be found on coins from ancient eras.
These proud birds sit high up on mountains overlooking unsuspecting prey waiting to swoop in for the kill. They stand horizontally, looking assertive and in charge of its territory.
When flying, these eagles dive with their wings closed and spread them as they rise up. They continue their display by performing a somersault midair — a spectacular display of their power and amazing to watch.
Luckily the Verreaux isn’t on the endangered list given their remote habitat. Many are found in the far north of Africa amongst inaccessible terrain, so are unaffected by human interventions to their home. The only known danger is to their food source, the Rock Hyrax which is hunted by humans for food and skin.
Read on as we examine some specific details of these birds such as where they reside, what they eat and some behaviors they display.
Perhaps one of the unique and distinguishing features of a Verreaux is its pure black color. There is, however, a small area of white in the shape of a v on its back above the wings. Their feet and talons are yellow. When in flight, there are some whitish areas on outer wings.
Their wings are broad with tips that taper downwards. It’s tricky to distinguish between the sexes, but females are usually slightly bigger than males. Youngsters have brown/yellow plumage with a red color around them, with only their neck and throat processing the typical black hue. They usually acquire full adult plumage by the time they are 4 years old.
Adults usually weigh from 6-11 pounds (3 kg) but can reach up to 11 pound (ca. 5 kg). Wingspan distance when fully stretched can reach up to 6.2 feet (1.89 m).
Male Vs Female
The main difference between male and females is size. Males usually weigh 6-10 pounds and females 7-13 pounds. Females also have longer feathers that are thicker and more expansive. Both genders tend to measure between 27 – 37 cm (10-15 inches).
Are They Aggressive?
As are most birds of prey, Verreaux eagles are very territorial and as such can appear aggressive. Their aggressive tendencies are mostly around breeding time, when they are highly protective of their young. They have been known to attack creatures such as panthers to defend their nest, what great parents they are.
What Adaptions Do They Have?
The adaptations of the Verreaux Eagle serve them well in their habitat. The Verreaux have huge feet with a grasp wider than other birds of prey. This may be because their prey is larger than most.
They also have wings that have developed to enable them to generate lift when they swoop in before a kill.. They are able to fly in strong winds and given their unique wing shape can draw them in to counteract any difficulty.
Breeding / Reproduction Behavior
The Verreaux eagles are monogamous birds and display highly defensive behavior during mating season. When courting, pairs will perch close to each other and make quick hooting sounds whilst bobbing their heads, their wings stay slightly outstretched. They will preen each other for an extended period of time. Courtship often involves elaborate displays of tumbling, swirling, circling, dives and swoops in an attempt to impress each other.
They usually breed once per year, usually in the dry season. Sometimes it’s longer and is largely dependent on current food supply.
Once mated, the female will produce 2 or 3 eggs, typically 4-7 days apart. The female is responsible for incubating the eggs, and the male will search and provide food. Incubation usually lasts 32-45 days, and they will hatch within a week of each other. Unfortunately, the oldest chick will often kill the younger one, the reason is an enigma.
Both parents carry food to the nest and tear off small pieces and place them in the mouths of the eaglets. They also provide protection to their young by spreading wings to make a sort of sun shade on hot days. They really are attentive parents.
The female looks after the chick for around 20-25 days, after which they leave the nest and head into the world with the support of mum and dad. They are usually flying properly around 14 days after leaving. At 5 months, they can catch prey and stay with parents for 2 years before venturing out alone.
Their Calls / Sounds
The Verreaux isn’t generally a vocal bird, except during courtship, or if threatened. They rely on visual cues for communication, however, young chicks are very chatty and consistently chirp when parents are around when they are hungry or craving protection. If threatened, the birds will let out a rather alarming bark-like sound to ward off any danger.
What Do They Eat (Diet)
The Verreaux usually hunt in pairs, and their meal of choice is the Hyrax. This small animal is common in the eagles’ habitat and is found in rocky areas, usually living in groups. The Hyrax is often easy prey, as it dwells in areas of cliff easily accessible to the Verreaux.
If the Hyrax is scarce, the eagle will expand his hunting territory and prey on other animals such as tortoises, rabbits, and other mammals. They’ve even been known to kill animals such as monkeys and klipspringer.
When hunting they often do so in pairs with one distracting the other to guarantee the kill. Not only are they magnificent to look at, they’re super intelligent too. Some prey are caught close or on the ground, but more often than not they’re picked out from the trees and cliffs.
What Are Their Nesting Habits
The eagles construct nests on rocky ledges. Their nests are huge compared to other birds and are usually made up of sticks and leaves. Males and females engage in nest building. It can take both eagles between 6 – 18 weeks to build from scratch; totally committed they are to their task. When one year comes to a close, they repair the old nest and prepare for a new season, how thrifty!
How Long Do They Live (Lifespan)
It is thought that these Eagles can live as long as 40 years in the wild.
What Predators Do They Have?
Eagles have no known predators. They are high in the food chain, which means they are quite safe from most other species. There are few birds that would get in the way of the Verreaux. However, once mating has finished they do need to protect their eggs from larger mammals such as leopards and mongooses.
What Are Their Feathers Like?
When firstborn, the Verreaux will have fluffy white feathers and a black face. As they grow they transform into a glorious cover of black, and brown before acquiring their all over black appearance when they reach adulthood. Their feathers are typically light, strong, flexible, and layered. They have shorter inner feathers that look like leaves. No wonder they make a fabulous job of swooping through the air so gracefully.
What Does Their Poop Look Like?
The eagle’s poop consists of food waste and metabolic excretions Unlike humans, birds eat whole food with little chewing their bodies then use uric acid to dissolve the waste, so they can get rid of it. This process results in poop that is white and watery. Bigger birds such as eagles still have white poop but can sometimes appear darker due to the type of small mammals they eat.
Do They Migrate?
Verreaux Eagles are not thought to be migratory birds. If there is an extended period of drought they may migrate a short distance, but generally they stay put.
Their wingspan can reach up to 7 feet (2.13 m)
Their nests can measure 6 feet (1.83 m) across
Due to the unique shape of the wings, they are able to fly long distances and for greater amounts of times than other birds
They hunt mostly whilst in flight, swooping fast to unsuspecting prey
If their prey (Hyrax) tries to get away, they use their claws to drag it back before ripping it apart and eating it
They have astounding vision — 4-5 times stronger than the average human
They often stay with the same partner their entire life
Although they reside and breed in Africa, the verreaux has been spotted south of the Sahara. Israel and the Arabian Peninsula.
Baby Baboons can be in danger from eagles if left unattended
If you’re ever lucky enough to see one of these tremendous creatures, either at a Falconry establishment or in the wild, you now know a few facts you can share with your friends.