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Birds of Prey: The African Crowned Eagle

Updated on March 12, 2017
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Bill has always had an interest in nature and in particular birds of prey. Learn about these majestic creatures that grace our skies.

The African Crowned Eagle
The African Crowned Eagle | Source

The African Crowned Eagle is another of Africa’s large and powerful eagle’s and is considered one of the “Big Three” eagle species in Africa. Along with the mighty Martial Eagle and the beautiful black Verreaux’s Eagle, the African Crowned Eagle stands as one of the most formidable raptors in the world. Also known simply as the Crowned Eagle, this beautiful species is found only in sub-Saharan Africa.

Description

The African Crowned Eagle is a very large bird. Their 31 to 39 inch length places them in the top five longest eagles in the world. As with many other birds of prey the female is larger than the male by about 10 to 15 percent. Females will weigh on average about 7 to 10 pounds while males will weigh a little less at 6 to 9 pounds. With an average weight of about 8 pounds the African Crowned Eagle is the ninth heaviest eagle species in the world.

The wingspan of the Crowned Eagle ranges from about five feet up to six feet, which while large, is actually somewhat short for a bird of this size. This wingspan would be typical of a raptor that is about half the weight of the Crowned Eagle. What they lack in wing length they make up for in width as they have a very broad wing that is somewhat rounded. This unique wing shape gives the Crowned Eagle an increase in maneuverability, which is needed in the dense forests where they hunt.

African Crowned Eagle
African Crowned Eagle | Source

Another unique adaptation of the Crowned Eagle is their rather large legs and feet, which are noticeably heavier and thicker than those of their African counterpart the Martial Eagle. They also possess an impressive set of weapons in their very large talons. With an average talon length of almost two inches they are almost on par with other much larger eagle species such as the Harpy Eagle of South America and Philippine Eagle.

The coloring of the Crowned Eagle is quite impressive and colorful. Their upper-parts are an array of black, browns and grey and they have an imposing looking double crest, which is black tipped. Their under-parts are white or cream colored with densely packed black spots and bars and their tails are also a mix of black and brown. The wings have a white base with black tips and two very distinct black bars. Their eyes can be either yellow or off-white and their feet are yellow with those large black talons. With their dark coloring, double crest, and large legs and talons the African Crowned Eagle can be one menacing looking raptor.

This is one mean looking bird!
This is one mean looking bird! | Source

Juveniles look much different than their parents and it will take up to three years before they achieve their full adult colors. Young African Crowned Eagles will be lighter in color with light grays and white over much of its body including its head. As they mature their coloring will darken to the very striking dark colors that the adults show.

Habitat and Range

The African Crowned Eagle is only found in certain areas of sub-Saharan Africa. Their range extends from central Africa in the areas of Uganda and Ethiopia to parts of Tanzania and Kenya south to the eastern portions of South Africa. They have become rare in areas of West Africa, and other countries where they can be found include Gambia, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Senegal and the Congo.

The preferred habitat of the Crowned Eagle is a densely forested area and they can be found in the rainforests and dense woodlands throughout their range. They can also be found in hilly areas with rocky outcroppings and mountainous terrain that contains dense areas of forest. Their range can be at altitudes of anywhere from sea-level up to over 9,000 feet.

The Crowned Eagle does not migrate and they are apt to inhabit the same territory throughout their adult life. Juvenile birds will move about before they mature as they seek a territory and a mate. An adult may relocate on occasion due to unforeseen circumstances such as losing its mate.

Range

Range of the African Crowned Eagle
Range of the African Crowned Eagle | Source
This eagle has attitude!
This eagle has attitude! | Source

Diet

The African Crowned Eagle is considered the most powerful raptor in all of Africa, even more so than the Verreaux’s Eagle and the Marital Eagle, which are both slightly heavier. Their preferred hunting style is to find a suitable spot from which to sit and watch for potential prey. When a victim is spotted they will swiftly and silently stoop in for the kill from their perch. Their broad wings and long tail feathers help them to maneuver through the forest with ease. The very powerful talons of the Crowned Eagle are capable of killing prey on impact. Most kills by the Crowned Eagle are made on the forest floor although they can and will occasionally make a kill while flying.

African Crowned Eagle with a kill
African Crowned Eagle with a kill | Source

The Crowned Eagle’s diet consists mainly of mammals including a variety of monkey species, which seems to be their favorite prey. They will also hunt lizards, snakes, hares, squirrels, mongoose, feral cats, hyrax, and even small antelope.

Crowned Eagles who make their home range in the rainforest will rely more on monkeys for prey while those whose range is outside the rainforest have a more diverse diet. Once a kill is made they will attempt to carry it up into the trees for safety but with larger prey this is sometimes not possible. In these cases they will use their very sharp bills to tear the prey apart so it can be moved in smaller pieces. The African Crowned Eagle is one of the few raptor species to routinely hunt prey that are over twice their own weight and this is yet one more reason why they are considered one of the most powerful raptors in the world.

The African Crowned Eagle
The African Crowned Eagle | Source

Breeding

African Crowned Eagles will mate for life as is common among most eagle species. The courtship ritual of the Crowned Eagle involves a thrilling aerial display along with a noisy vocal exchange. The pair will construct a nest, usually high up in a tree, and will reuse the nest from year to year. While the nest will initially be of modest size the pair will continue to add to the nest for years until it is rather large and one of the largest of all eagle species. Mature Crowned Eagle nests can be up to eight feet across and ten feet deep.

African Crowned Eagle with nest
African Crowned Eagle with nest | Source

As the Crowned Eagle has one of the longest breeding cycles (up to 500 days) they will only breed once every other year. The female will lay one or two eggs that she will incubate for about 49 days while the male brings food to the nest. The female will do up to 90% of the incubating with only an occasional respite from the male. If there are two eggs the younger and smaller chick will always die either by starvation or at the hands of its older sibling, a cruel fate of nature. The surviving chick will continue to be fed by its mother for about 40 days after which time it is capable of feeding itself. Fledging occurs on average at about 110 days and the young eagle will experience its first flight at about four months of age. The juvenile eagle will remain under the care of its parents for an additional eleven months after fledging. This long period of dependence is one of the longest of any raptor and ensures that the young eagle is properly prepared to fend for itself once it becomes independent. It will take approximately five years for the young eagle to reach its breeding maturity.

The African Crowned Eagle
The African Crowned Eagle | Source

Status

Current estimates place the number of African Crowned Eagles at about 10,000 individuals. In 2012 they were listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). With widespread deforestation occurring across Africa the amount of suitable habitat for the Crowned Eagle is shrinking and placing a strain on the species. Persecution by farmers who perceive the Crowned Eagle as a threat to livestock is also a concern.

Another disturbing threat to the Crowned Eagle is that they are now competing with the illegal bush-meat trade in Africa. Poachers are decimating the stocks of antelope and monkeys in some areas for bush-meat and this is reducing the amount of potential prey for the Crowned Eagle and placing them in direct competition with the poachers. This is a competition that the Crowned Eagle is certain to lose.

On a more positive note there is an organization in South Africa called the CEWG, or Crowned Eagle Working Group, whose members monitor the breeding success of nesting sites. Their work extends to raising awareness and educating farmers and logging companies on the conservation efforts of the Crowned Eagle. Let’s hope that the efforts of the CEWG and other organizations such as The Peregrine Fund can help to insure that these majestic birds are protected and given every opportunity to thrive.

Fun Facts on the African Crowned Eagle

  • The flight of the African Crowned Eagle is remarkably stealthy and quiet, much like that of an owl. This is due to its unique wing shape.
  • The first African Crowned Eagle born in captivity was hatched at the San Diego Zoo in 1996.
  • The African Crowned Eagle can swoop at speeds up to 100 mile per hour.
  • African tribesmen value the crest feathers of the Crowned Eagle as ornaments.
  • The Crowned Eagle has been known to attack prey that is up to six times its own weight.
  • Pound for pound the African Crowned Eagle is one of the most formidable and ferocious birds of prey in the world.
  • Males and females will sometimes work together when hunting. While one attracts the attention of a potential prey the other stealthy strikes from behind.
  • The African Crowned Eagle can live for thirty years or longer in the wild with some possibly reaching fifty years.

© 2013 Bill De Giulio

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    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Nick. I can sense your enthusiasm. Isn't it wonderful how many amazing species of eagles there are around the world. They are all special and should be protected to ensure their long-term survival. Many thanks for finding my site and sharing your interest. I hope to write about other eagle species in the future.

    • profile image

      Nick 3 years ago

      Wow....i love these bird. Very striking looking raptor. The talons was huge despite of its size even larger than the golden and martial. A perfect combination of power and beauty. I don't think if anyone agree with me. After reading these blog and seeng all photos. These rank 3rd among the most impressive eagles in the world with phil eagle as the top spot for the best looking bird and close second is the powerful harpy eagle. Wow i love these birds....

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Joe. Thank You. This is one large and mean looking raptor. Wouldn't want to have to face off with him for my next meal.

      My brother lives in the Seattle area so we root for the Seahawks also in addition to our Patriots. Hopefully they have a great year.

      Thanks again Joe, have a great weekend.

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      Small antelope? Oh, my word! This eagle is as fierce as he looks!

      Another majestic presentation of one of nature's beauties, Bill! And I'm very thankful that you're the one presenting it. Absolutely delightful in scope, choice of images, and delivery.

      On a lighter note, I'm hoping the birds of prey in Seattle--the Seahawks--are as fierce, determined, and victorious this year as the African Crowned Eagle.

      Aloha and thank you, my friend!

      ~Joe

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Mary. It's amazing how many interesting species of eagle there are out there. The African Crowned Eagle certainly is a beautiful member of the family. Thanks so much for the nice comments, the vote, share, etc... Have a wonderful weekend.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 3 years ago from New York

      What a great bird! I know, it's a raptor but its still a bird to me. You always find the best pictures and the video was interesting and entertaining.

      Your series amazes me as you keep coming up with such interesting subjects. I'm telling you, as I have before, you should be working for Nat Geo though this series is in competition with your Italy travelogue!

      Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting. Shared too.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Deb. Thank you. The African Crowned Eagle sure is one beautiful raptor. I would love to travel to Africa someday to see one in the wild. Thanks so much Deb for stopping by. Have a great week.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      This is one striking and remarkable raptor. Your piece was well done, and right to the point in all aspects. It was a great read, Bill, and well as very informative on an incredible species.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Londonlady. Me too, I find them just fascinating. Thanks so much for stopping by, have a great day.

    • Londonlady profile image

      Laura Writes 3 years ago

      What a beautiful bird. I've always found birds of prey to me majestic and just fascinating to learn about. Great hub

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi rajan. Thank you. This sure is one mean looking bird. It's amazing the power this guy has. They have been known to attack prey up to 60 pounds, over 6 times their body weight. Thanks so much for the vote, share, etc. have a great day.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Very informative read on this fearless looking bird though in the first picture the face looks more like an owl. Those sure are powerful legs and talons.

      Voted up, useful, interesting and sharing this hub, Bill.

      Have a good day!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Mel. Thank you for stopping by today. The African Crowned Eagle certainly is a magnificent species. I too am a big fan of all things avian. Have a wonderful day.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      Fascinating hub on a magnificent species! As a fan of all things avian in nature I appreciate you filling in the gaps of my knowledge about birds.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you Linda. It's amazing how many amazing eagle species there are. The African Crowned Eagle certainly ranks up there as not only one of the largest but also one of the most beautiful. Thank you for sharing the hub, have a great week.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a very worthy addition to your bird of prey series, Bill. All the photos are wonderful, but the opening photo is especially dramatic! It's a great way to begin the hub. Thank you for a fascinating look at the magnificent African Crowned Eagle. I'll share the hub so that others can enjoy it!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Suzie. Funny how we find our niches here. The Birds of Prey series started with the Red Tail Hawk that lives here in our area. From there it just kind of took off and now I really enjoy learning about these amazing creatures. The one common theme among most of them is that they are all threatened and sadly humans are the culprits.

      As always thank you for the vote, share, pin etc. Have a great week.

    • Suzie HQ profile image

      Suzanne Ridgeway 3 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Bill,

      How I love this series you have. Wow, what a stunning bird and truly powerful. Loved all the info, their mating ritual would make for a fascinating sight! Pity they are so rare in the world and only seen on the African continent but your photo selection makes them accessible to the rest of us, thank you for such awesome pics. Another great write and well researched info, you have such a talent for this you deserve much success.

      All the votes, shares and pinning! Superb my friend.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Flourish. Thank you. The more I learned about this amazing bird the more I knew I had to write a Hub about them. Thanks so much for the vote, share, etc.. Have a great day.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Randi. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment. This really is one magnificent bird. Glad you enjoyed the hub, have a great day.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Lenzy, so nice to see you here. What an amazing article on Simon. That photo of him with the juvenile Crowned eagle really gives one a sense of just how large this bird is. I will find a way to place a link to this article in the hub. I am envious that you have seen one in the wild. Thanks so much for stopping by, hope all is well.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Joelle. It is a pity that it's always the same story; poaching, deforestation, human interference, etc.. Hopefully enough is being done so these amazing birds have a future. Thanks so much for the vote, etc.. have a great day.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. If this bird doesn't strike fear into its potential prey I don't know what will. This is one powerful bird with an attitude. Thanks for stopping by this Sunday morning Bill. Have a great day.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Fantastic research and selection of complementary photos. I especially like your presentation of "fun facts" at the end. Voted up and more and sharing.

    • btrbell profile image

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Magnificent birds! Often, when I am driving to work, there are 1 or 2 flying above the highway. It is an awesome sight! Thank you for this enlightening hub! up+

    • Lenzy profile image

      Lenzy 3 years ago from Arlington, Texas

      http://www.africanraptors.org/simon-thomsett-on-th... Simon Thomsett has done some amazing research on this beautiful eagle which I once saw at Finch Hattons in Tsavo, Kenya. The bird is huge and so regal. Great job on your hub.

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 3 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      What a nice bird! It looks very powerful and fierce! I love your choice of pictures! I find it "funny" to see their feathers go up on their head but I suppose that's where the names come from!

      Like a lot of disappearing species, it always come to the same things everywhere.... deforestation and poaching! What a pity!

      Thanks for sharing this great article!

      Voted up, awesome and interesting!

      Enjoy your Sunday!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Is that a majestic bird or what? Wow! Those penetrating eyes are enough to strike fear in the hearts of prey, are they not?

      Great read this Sunday morning. Thanks, Bill, for some great research and a well-written article.

      Have a great day my friend.

      bill

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