Walking A Tight Rope With The Bateleur Eagle

A feature named ‘The Hunter’s High Road.’ Check back to see an animal that represents the apex of predatory evolution. Carnivores come in a range of shapes and sizes, using a variety of tricks to catch their prey. Some are powerful, some are beautiful. All are deadly.

The hunter I’m focusing on today is the Bateleur Eagle, named after the French word for street performer. The name comes from the bird’s characteristic habit of rocking its wings from side to side when gliding. This gives it the appearance of a tight-rope walker, as if the eagle is catching its balance.

bateleur4The colourful bird has black plumage, a chestnut mantle, red facial skin and a distinctive short tail. They grow to an average size of 70cm with a six foot wingspan. The Bateleur is found in Africa, preferring tree and bush savanna. They eat a range of animals, such as mice, birds, lizards, antelope and snakes.

Bateleurs pair for life and breed from December to March. Mating rituals are spectacular, with male and females performing an aerial display. The female will roll onto her back, present her talons and then roll to the side when the male dives past. This may be followed by 360 degree barrel rolls and a loud slapping of wings that can be heard for miles.5

Females nest in large trees that offer protection and lay a single egg. She will incubate the egg while the male collects food. However, the father will incubate in certain situations. The chick hatches after 52-59 days, with it leaving the nest after 110 days. Life for a hatchling is difficult, with only 2% of chicks making it to adulthood.

Bateleurs are considered near-threatened, due to a loss of habitat, pesticides and capture for international trade. The global population is estimated to be around 10,000 to 100,000 individuals.

Bateleur eagles are majestic hunters that use strength, coordination and speed to take down their prey. A great place to see one up close is at the Cheshire Falconry Centre in the UK. I was able to fly a Bateleur as part of the Eagle Adventure experience, so I would highly recommend it.

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