Hellenica World

Haliaeetus vocifer

Haliaeetus vocifer, Photo: Michael Lahanas

Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Classis: Aves
Subclassis: Carinatae
Infraclassis: Neornithes
Parvclassis: Neognathae
Ordo: Falconiformes
Familia: Accipitridae
Subfamilia: Haliaeetinae
Genus: Haliaeetus
Species: Haliaeetus vocifer

Name

Haliaeetus vocifer (Daudin, 1800)

Vernacular names
Internationalization
Česky: Orel jasnohlasý
Deutsch: Schrei-Seeadler
English: African Fish-Eagle
Español: Pigargo africano
Nederlands: Afrikaanse zeearend
Polski: Bielik afrykański
Suomi: Kiljumerikotka


Reference

Traite élémentaire et complet d'Ornithologie 2 p.65

The African Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer)[2] or–to distinguish it from the true fish eagles (Ichthyophaga), the African Sea Eagle–is a large species of eagle. It is the national bird of Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Its closest relative appears to be the critically endangered Madagascar Fish-eagle (H. vociferoides). Like all sea-eagle species pairs, this one consists of a white-headed species (the African Fish Eagle) and a tan-headed one. These are an ancient lineage of sea-eagles, and as such have dark talons, beaks, and eyes (Wink et al. 1996). Both species have at least partially white tails even as juveniles.

Description


The African Fish Eagle is a large bird, and the female, at 3.2-3.6 kg (7-8 lbs) is larger than the male, at 2-2.5 kg (4.4-5.5 lbs). Males usually have a wingspan of about 2 m (6 feet), while females have wingspans of 2.4 m (8 feet). The length is 63–75 cm (25–30 in). They are very distinctive in appearance with a mostly brown body and large, powerful, black wings. The head, breast, and tail of African Fish Eagles are snow white and the hook-shaped beak is mostly yellow with a black tip.

Range and habitat

This species is still quite common near freshwater lakes, reservoirs, or rivers, although they can sometimes be found near the coast at the mouths of rivers or lagoons. As their name implies, African Fish Eagles are indigenous to Africa, ranging over most of continental Africa south of the southern-most edge of the Sahara Desert.

Reproduction


Breeding season for African Fish Eagles is during the dry season, when water levels are low. African Fish Eagles are believed to mate for life, and pairs will often maintain two or more nests, which they will frequently re-use. Because nests are re-used and built upon over the years the nests can grow to be quite large, some reaching 2m (six feet) across and 1.2 m (4 feet) deep. The nests are placed in a large tree and built mostly of sticks and other pieces of wood.

The female lays 1 to 3 eggs, which are primarily white with a few reddish speckles. Incubation is mostly done by the female, but the male will incubate when the female leaves to hunt. Incubation lasts for 42 to 45 days before the chicks hatch. The eggs will often hatch a few days apart, and the eldest chick will usually kill any younger chicks. Fledging lasts for 70 to 75 days, and after about 8 weeks the chick is capable of feeding itself and will usually begin to venture outside of the nest 2 weeks later.
Perching in a tree in Malawi. It perches with a upright posture and it generally perches in trees.

Diet

The African Fish Eagle feeds mainly on fish, which, upon spying it from a perch in a tree, it will swoop down upon and snatch from the water with its large clawed talons and fly back to its perch to eat. Should the African Fish Eagles catch a fish over 1.8 kg (4 pounds) it will be too heavy to allow it to get lift, so it will instead drag the fish across the surface of the water until it reaches the shore. If it catches a fish that is too heavy to even allow the eagle to sustain flight, it will drop into the water and paddle to the nearest shore with its wings. It will also feed on waterfowl, small turtles, baby crocodiles, Greater flamingos, Lesser Flamingos, and carrion.

Heraldry

The bird figures in the coat of arms of Namibia.

References

* BirdLife International (2004). Haliaeetus vocifer. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 12 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
* Wink, M.; Heidrich, P. & Fentzloff, C. (1996): A mtDNA phylogeny of sea eagles (genus Haliaeetus) based on nucleotide sequences of the cytochrome b gene. Biochemical Systematics and Ecology 24: 783-791. doi:10.1016/S0305-1978(96)00049-X PDF fulltext

Footnotes

1. ^ BirdLife International (2005). Haliaeetus albicilla. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 24 August 2006. Database entry restates that the White-tailed Eagle has been downlisted to Least Concern in 2006.
2. ^ Etymology: Haliaeetus, New Latin for "sea-eagle". vocifer, from Latin vox, "voice" + -fer, one who bears something, in allusion to the conspicuous yelping calls. These are, when sitting, given with the head fully thrown to the back, a peculiarity found among sea-eagles only in this and the Madagascar species.

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