African Fish Eagle – The Powerful Voice of Africa

The African Fish Eagle is one of the most noisy birds I have ever come across. This bird truely lives up to its name. Little wonder that it earned itself the nickname The Voice of Africa. Moreover, the African Fish Eagle is the best researched bird in the whole of Africa. Even today, it is the most common bird of prey on the African contient.

Because of its wide distribution this bird received many names. The English language knows this bird also as African River Eagle, thereby alluding to the bird’s preferred habitats. Whereas the African Fish Eagle clearly describes the bird’s most common food.

The Arabic name of the African Fish Eagle is “Abu Toy” or “el foqie”, meaning the priest and alluding to the unique colour of the plumage. At least the white bib might bring back memories of a protestant church pastor.

african fish eagle voice of africa bird of prey
African Fish Eagle – headshot

Research, Distribution and Habitat

When ornithologist Leslie H. Brown published its extensive research on the African Fish Eagle in 1980, the disbribution of this bird was estimated at between 100,000 to 200,000 in Africa. About 40 years later, there is no change to its numbers. In our times this is quite a success, compared to others species that suffered declines of up to 90 per cent.

Distribution: The African Fish Eagle is an African bird of prey. Its distributions begins at the southern edge of the Sahara, from the west African Mauritania eastwards through Senegal, Gambia, across Nigeria and Cameroon to southern Sudan and further on to Ethiopia. From there, the distribution stretches southwards down to the Cape region.

Habitat: We find the African Fish Eagle everywhere alonside rivers, estuaries, lakes, shorelines and also in floodplains, swamps, mangrove lagoons, streams and wooded country. Distributes from sealevel up to 4,000 metres.

Behaviour: The African Fish Eagle is active during daylight. Activities begin from first light and end during the last evening hours. Rests during the hottest time of day (lunchtime). There are two phases of activity, the first between 11 am to 1 pm and the second between 3 pm to 4 pm. After 5 pm the birds don’t hunt.

african fish eagle
African Fish Eagle

Field Characteristics

The African Fish Eagle is one of the smalles of all Fish Eagles. Though, when having one of them sitting on one’s fist, it is still a large raptor. Plumage is colourful with white, black and rufous in the adult. The bird shows a strong bill and lateral flattened head. Legs are unfeathered. Sexes Similar, with the female being larger by c. 9 per cent. Bill is black, legs are yellow.
Size: 63-75 cm
Tail: 19-24 cm
Weight: ♂ 1,986-2497 g; ♀ 3,170 -3,360 g
Wingspan: 470-605 cm
Wings: ♂ 470-540 mm; 540-605 mm

Voice: Very noise bird. Yelps followed by ringing laugh also similar to Herring Gull at times. Utters calls in flight and mostly when perched.

bird of prey african fish eagle
Bird of Prey: African Fish Eagle

Bird Facts on the African Fish Eagle


Order: Birds of Prey (Accipitriformes)
Family: Accipitridae
Genus: Haliaeetus
Species: African Fish Eagle
Scientific Name: Haliaeetus vocifer

African Fish Eagle
African Fish Eagle

Names and Synonyms of the African Fish Eagle

German Name: Schreiseeadler
French Name: Pygargue vocifer
Dutch Name: Afrikaanse Zeearend
Italian Name: L’aquila urlatrice
Finish Name: Kiljumerikotka
Swedish Name: Skrikhavsörn
Polish Name: Bielik afrykanski
Russion Name: Орлан-крикун

african fish eagle
African Fish Eagle

Breeding Facts on the African Fish Eagle

Maturity: Probably in the fifths year
Breeding Season: Extended Season, during variable times during the year and depending on the geographical region. Around the equator the African Fish Eagle breeeds at any time during the year. Southern Africa = April to October; coastal East Africa = June to December; West Africa = October to April; Ethiopia = July/August – October; Sudan = from October.
Nest: Platform built of sticks and papyrus, measuring 120-150 cm across and 20 to 60 cm deep. Nest are usually used for several years.

Clutch: usually two eggs (varies from 1 to 4 eggs)
Laying Interval: 2-3 days
Begin of incubating: probably directly after the first egg
Incubation: 42-45 days
Hatching: according to laying interval 2-3 days
Fledging: 64-75 days, females fledge later and not before the 72nd day.
Dependency: juveniles remain dependend of their parents for about 2 month after fledging.

african fish eagle
African Fish Eagle

Micsellaneous – Food – Longevity – Threats

Food: The African Fish Eagle feeds mainly on fish, supplemented by birds, mammals such as monkeys, reptiles, crocodile hatchlings, terrapins, monitor lizards, amphibians (bullfrogs e.g.), insects and only rarely carrion.

The African Fish Eagle is known to feed on waterfowl, herons, ibis, spoonbills, flamingos and also on their eggs and juveniles. Some of the African Fish Eagles are specialists in culling entire colonies of waterfowl.

Longevity: unknown
Threats: There are no immediate threats

african fish eagle
African Fish Eagle

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Published by Raymond Loyal Photography

Bird, Nature, Art and Architecture Photographer, Traveller, Blogger.

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