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Aug 27 2011

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Martial Eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus)

Martial Eagle

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Polemaetus bellicosus | [authority] Daudin, 1800 | [UK] Martial Eagle | [FR] Aigle martial | [DE] Kampfadler | [ES] | [NL] Vechtarend

Subspecies

Monotypic species

Genus

The Martial Eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus), is Africa’s largest eagle and is the only member of the genus Polemaetus.

Physical charateristics

Among eagles found in Africa, only the Golden, Verreaux’s and Crowned Eagle overlap in size with the Martial Eagle. The adult’s plumage has dark brown upperparts, head and upper chest. The body underparts are white spotted with black. The underwing coverts are brown, with pale flight feathers, also streaked with black. The female is usually larger and more spotted than the male. The immature is paler above and has white underparts. It reaches adult plumage in its seventh year.

Listen to the sound of Martial Eagle

[audio:http://www.planetofbirds.com/MASTER/ACCIPITRIFORMES/Accipitridae/sounds/Martial Eagle.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto


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Range

Africa : widespread. Polemaetus bellicosus has an extensive range across much of sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal and the Gambia east to Ethiopia and north-west Somalia and south to Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. It is generally scarce to uncommon or rare, but is reasonably common in some areas

Habitat

The largest eagle in Africa, this is a bird of the uninhabited stretches of thornbush and savannah found over much of Africa, occurring also in open plains and semi-desert country. It spends much of its time on the wing, and is usually seen soaring about hill slopes, often at a very great height rendering it almost invisible to the naked eye. Early in the morning before it takes to the wing for the day, or in the evening prior to roosting it can be seen perced in trees. It will soar for hours on updraughts without hunting, and with a full crop, but it does most of its hunting from the soar also, killing or attacking by a long slanting stoop at great speed, or a gentle descent into an opening in the bush, the speed of the descent being controlled by the angle at which the wings are held above the back. It may kill from a perch, but does so seldom, and most of its kills are surprised in the open by the speed of the eagle’s attack from a distance.
A pair of Martial Eagles may have a home range of anything up to 50 square miles, and they wander about over most of it. They often hunt for several days in one area and then move on to another, since complaints of kills are often voiced for several days in succession in the same area. It is much shier than the other big eagles of Africa, and generally keeps away from man.

Reproduction

No very striking display flights have been recorded; adults and also subadults will perch on trees, or soar, and utter the display call, which can be heard a long way off. Nests are built invariably in trees, at any height from 20 to 80 feet above ground, but often in the largest tree in the area, growing on a steep hillside or in a gorge, where the bird has a clear sweep off the nest. Pairs have one or two nests, which are used in alternate years if more than one, but for successive breeding attempts if only one. They are huge structures about four to six feet across and up to four feet thick, and often basin-shaped when new – much broader than they are deep. They are made of large sticks up to one-and-a-half inches in diameter, lined with green leaves. They may be used by a succession of birds for many years.
The breeding season may thus begin in various parts of the range in a wet season, the early dry season, or late in the dry season, and some part of the cycle must extend through rainy periods. Incubation is normally by the female, but a male has been known to sit. The female leaves the nest to feed and is not usually fed by the male at the nest. The incubation period is probably about 45 days. The young is very weak and feeble when first hatched, but becomes more active after about twenty days. At 32 days feathers show through the down, and completely cover the bird at 70 days. The young is fed by its parent till it is about 60 days old, and well feathered, when it starts to tear up its prey itself. During the early fledging period the female remains near or on the nest, and the male hunts and brings prey. The female remains in the area and receives prey from the male for about 50 days. After that she hunts or brings prey to the nest herself and the male seldom appears. The young one is closely brooded in its first few days, but after fourteen days the female does not brood it except at night. The young bird, after making its first flight (at about 100 days), may return to roost in the nest for some days, and thereafter moves away from it. It remains loosely attached to the nest site for some time, and may be seen not far from it for up to six months.

Feeding habits

In some areas birds form an important part of the diet, including guineafowl, francolins, bustards, and poultry. Birds as large as a European Stork are recorded. In other areas the diet is largely mammalian, especially hyrax and small antelopes. Animals as large as an Impala calf are taken, and some monkeys, also occasionally young domestic goats, and lambs. Carnivores like mongoose are sometimes taken, even occasionally Serval Cat and Jackal; also a few snakes and large lizards. It will evidently eat whatever is available, with a preference for game-birds, hyrax, and poultry. 1t is not known to eat carrion at all except possibly dead lambs.

Video Martial Eagle

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDLHCyg3uGc

copyright: Daniel Jimenez


Conservation

This species has been uplisted to Near Threatened because it is suspected to have undergone moderately rapid declines during the past three generations (56 years) owing to habitat loss and incidental poisoning and pollution, and is consequently believed to approach the threshold for classification as Vulnerable.
The species suffers from direct persecution (shooting and trapping) by farmers, indirect poisoning (these two threats by far the most important causes of losses), drowning in sheer-walled reservoirs, electrocution on power poles, and habitat alteration and degradation. Poisoning is largely carried out by a few large-scale commercial farmers, but is also a problem in tribal small-stock farming communities. Deforestation may be having less of an impact on this species than on other large eagles as it can utilise man-made structures for nesting. Reduction in natural prey may lead to an increase in predation on domestic animals which may in turn lead to increased persecution by farmers. In some areas birds may be taken for use in traditional medicine.
Martial Eagle status Near Threatened

Migration

Although not migratory in the strict sense it makes local movements involving flights of several hundred miles, and a pair may not habitually be found near their breeding locality

Distribution map

Martial Eagle distribution range map

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