Sunday, December 15, 2013

African Fish Eagle (Africa Series)

Deep powerful wing beats 
keep the African Fish Eagle aloft.

Easily recognized as an eagle by its distinctive white head, the African Fish Eagle is a survivor. While other birds struggle to keep healthy populations the African Fish Eagle is holding steady. 

A common sight along larger lakes and streams, fish eagles command your attention just by they're presence. Often perched at the very top of trees, failing to see one would be unlikely...profoundly unfortunate. 

Departing a treetop perch, wings stretched high, it is still hard to tell if this is a male or a female.  The female has a wingspan of eight feet; the smaller male six feet, otherwise they look alike. A light breeze supports a gentle glide towards the water.

Found only near water, the African Fish Eagle’s diet consists mainly of fish, but they are not choosy in what they eat.  Swooping down in a straight-line attack he grasps his prey in long sharp talons and rises up again...disappearing with a lizard. 

(Click on any picture to enlarge)

Closely resembling and related to North America’s Bald Eagle, the African Fish Eagle displays a white head, a bare yellow face and a nearly black bill.   The white feathers on his head extend further down the breast and back than America’s eagle and he typically perches more erect.  

The American Bald Eagle has a yellow bill with a fully feathered white head, never mind the bald reference.

(See: Bald Eagle link below)

Holding onto a slippery fish can be difficult, so long sharp talons and rough soled feet evolved to the task. Fish swimming just below the surface are yanked airborne instantly.  If a fish proves to be too heavy to lift or maintain in flight, the African Fish Eagle will swim his catch to shore using his wings as paddles. 

Preferring to eat his catch in private, he carries a still squirming catfish aloft. 

Proudly upright and alert, the African Fish Eagle looks the part of a survivor.  One hopes he stays that way.


Wildlife of East Africa,
     Withers & Hosking

Link to Bald Eagle: