Verreaux's Eagle

Verreaux’s Eagle [Aquila verreauxii] Overview, Habitat, Sounds

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Scientific Classification

AnimaliaChordataAvesAccipitriformesAccipitridaeAquilaAquila verreauxii

Verreaux’s Eagle

The Verreaux’s Eagle, (Aquila verreauxii) in scientific parlance, is a large predator that mostly inhabits African environments. Though it is commonly identified as the black eagle, especially in southern Africa, it is not to be confused with the black eagle (Ictinaetus malayensis) that is found in Southeast and

South Asia. With sporadic occurrences in places that barely extend into Chad, Mali, Niger, and very locally in parts of the Middle East, this spectacular species flourishes in steep and rocky terrain across southern and eastern Africa. One of the most specialized accipitrid species on the planet, Aquila

verreauxii depends heavily on the availability of rock hyraxes, its favored prey, to survive. This predator has proven to be incredibly adaptive, demonstrating the capacity to endure—albeit with differing degrees of success—on substitute prey in the event that hyrax numbers decline. Small antelopes,

gamebirds, hares, monkeys, and other vertebrates are among the items on the menu. In terms of historical conservation, the Verreaux’s eagle has proven resilient despite its high degree of specialization. Among these, a population in Zimbabwe’s Matobo Hills is arguably the most studied eagle population

worldwide, having been the subject of constant, in-depth observation since the late 1950s.

Verreaux's Eagle


  1. Species and Size: (Aquila verreauxii) is a large bird of prey, primarily found in Africa.
  2. Alternative Name: Also known as the black eagle, especially in southern Africa, distinguishing it from the black eagle (Ictinaetus malayensis) of southeast Asia.
  3. Habitat: Inhabits hilly and mountainous regions of southern and eastern Africa, extending marginally into Chad, Mali, Niger, and locally in the Middle East.
  4. Specialization: Highly specialized, with a unique dependence on its favorite prey, the rock hyraxes.
  5. Adaptability: Demonstrates adaptability by surviving, with mixed success, on other prey species when hyrax populations decline, including small antelopes, gamebirds, hares, monkeys, and assorted vertebrates.
  6. Conservation Status: Despite its specialization, it has fared relatively well in historic conservation terms.
  7. Population Study: A population in the Matobo Hills of Zimbabwe is among the most extensively studied eagle populations globally, with continuous detailed research since the late 1950s.
  8. Taxonomic Classification: Belongs to the taxonomic order Accipitriformes (formerly Falconiformes) and the family Accipitridae.
  9. Common Names: Colloquially referred to as accipitrids or raptors, common terms for birds of prey.
  10. Range: Its range is extensive, covering various countries in Africa and locally in the Middle East.
  11. Behavior: Known for distinctive flight patterns, soaring along rock faces and perching on visible lookouts in its diurnal hunting behavior.
  12. Voice: Vocalizations include high-pitched whistles and screams during courtship and territorial displays.
  13. Dietary Ecology:
    • Highly specialized with a primary diet of rock hyraxes.
    • Adapts to other prey when hyrax populations decline, including small antelopes, gamebirds, hares, monkeys, and various vertebrates.
  14. Other Prey:
    • Demonstrates mixed success in hunting other species when hyrax populations are scarce.
  15. Interspecies Competition:
    • Engages in competition with other species for prey resources.


Known as Aquila Verreauxii, René Primevère Lesson introduced this species in 1830 with his publication Centurie zoologique, ou choix d’animaux rares, nouveaux ou imparfaitement connus. Honoring French naturalist Jules Verreaux, who is most known for his early 19th-century tour of southern Africa, is the

nomenclature. In addition to traveling across the area, Verreaux obtained the type specimen, which was a crucial addition to the French Academy of Sciences. It is a member of the broad group of raptors sometimes referred to as “booted eagles,” which are identified by the feathering that covers their tarsus,

a trait that is lacking in the majority of other accipitrids that have bare legs. This group includes many species that are classified as “hawk eagles,” including species from genera such as Nisaetus and Spizaetus as well as rare monotypical genera like Oroaetus, Lophaetus, Stephanoaetus, Polemaetus,

Lophotriorchis, and Ictinaetus. With the exception of South America and Antarctica, every continent is home to the genus Aquila. While the Aquila genus was historically thought to contain up to 20 species, questions about the taxonomic categorization of some of these species have surfaced recently.

In the past, Aquila eagles were described as large, mostly brown or dark-colored booted eagles that showed little change from juvenile to adulthood plumages.

  • It is genetically linked to a clade including Bonelli’s eagle, African hawk-eagle, and golden eagle.
  • The wedge-tailed eagle and Gurney’s eagle form a more distant sister species pair.
  • Cassin’s hawk-eagle is closely related to this clade, alongside the smaller A. fasciatus and A. spilogaster.
  • Relationships within this group were suspected based on morphological similarities among large-bodied species.
  • A. fasciatus and A. spilogaster were surprisingly identified in the clade, having been previously placed in the genus Hieraaetus.
  • Cassin’s hawk-eagle, initially associated with Hieraaetus and Spizaetus/Nisaetus groups, is now confirmed to nest within Aquila based on genetic data.
  • Eastern imperial eagle, Spanish imperial eagle, tawny eagle, and steppe eagles form a separate clade, evolving convergently with similarities to the prior clade.
  • “Spotted eagles” (C. pomarina, C. hastata & C. clanga) are genetically closer to the long-crested eagle and the black eagle, now placed in the genus Clanga.
  • The genus Hieraaetus, including booted eagle, little eagle, and Ayres’s hawk-eagle, is eliminated by many authorities; occasionally included in Aquila.
  • Wahlberg’s eagle, traditionally considered an Aquila species, is genetically aligned with the Hieraaetus lineage.
Verreaux's Eagle

Species in same Genus

Common NameScientific Name
Verreaux’s EagleAquila verreauxii
Golden EagleAquila chrysaetos
Spanish Imperial EagleAquila adalberti
Eastern Imperial EagleAquila heliaca
Steppe EagleAquila nipalensis
Tawny EagleAquila rapax
Greater Spotted EagleAquila clanga
Lesser Spotted EagleAquila pomarina


It is a powerful and magnificent predator with enormous stature. It is the sixth longest eagle in the world, measuring between 75 and 96 centimeters (30 and 38 inches) from the tip of its bill to the end of its tail. They are sexually dimorphic in that their weight varies; larger females weigh between 3.1 and

7 kg (6.8 and 15.4 lb), while males weigh between 3 and 4.2 kg (6.6 to 9.3 lb). These eagles weigh, on average, 4.19 kg (9.2 lb), according to data collected from 21 eagles of both sexes. The average body mass of Aquila verreauxii has been reported to vary between studies; unsexed birds have been reported

to weigh between 3.32 kg (7.3 lb) and 3.72 kg (8.2 lb). Male and female body mass differences have been noted, with seven males weighing an average of 3.76 kg (8.3 lb) and seven females weighing an average of 4.31 kg (9.5 lb). Four females in a different group were found to weigh an average of 4.6 kg

(10 lb). These minute details add up to a thorough comprehension of Aquila verreauxii physical attributes. With a weight ranking of seventh or eighth among all extant eagles, it is a prominent bird in the avian world. Its average mass and total weight range are similar to those of its sporadic counterpart,

the martial eagle, which is frequently regarded as the largest African eagle. It also represents the “booted eagle” clan formidablely, rivaling the martial and golden eagles for the distinction of being the largest living representation. With its remarkable wingspan, which measures 1.81 to 2.3 m (5 feet 11 in to 7 feet 7

in), they further demonstrates its majesty in the air. Bright yellow cere (as opposed to gun-metal grey bill), eye-ring, and “eye-brows” are distinguishing characteristics that amplify the bird’s visual appeal against its black plumage. Interestingly, the white coloring on its back, rump, upper-tail

coverts, and portions of its scapulars forms a noticeable V-shaped patch when viewed from above during flight, giving its aerial presence a refined touch. In perched birds, this characteristic might be partially covered, but in the dynamic setting of flying, it becomes even more evident. An further degree

of visual complexity is added by adult animals’ remarkable white windows on the wing quills at the carpal joint, which are visible from both above and below. The bird’s head, set high on its comparatively long neck, contributes to its unique appearance, while its robust bill completes the bird’s overall profile.

Moreover, the legs are completely feathered, which completes this fascinating bird species’ visual ensemble.

Verreaux's Eagle
  • Juvenile and Immature Plumage:
    • Overall dark brown color distinguishes juvenile and immature plumages.
    • Strongly contrasting golden crown with a rufous or ginger nape and mantle.
    • Small white streaks on the forehead and black on the cheeks.
    • Dark streaked throat, pale brown lower throat, and brown upper-chest.
    • Brown underside with a blackish-blotched rufous to cream-colored abdomen.
    • Lightly marked creamy thighs and legs.
    • Brown upper-tail and upper-wing coverts with white streaks in young birds.
    • Other tail and wing quills nearly black.
    • Considerable whitish mottling on wing quills when seen from below in flight.
    • Dark brown iris and yellowish feet in immature birds.
  • Age-Related Changes:
    • Black feathers increase from 2 to 5 years with scattering of brown-tipped feathers.
    • Contrasting creamy trousers maintained through the 3rd year.
    • By the 4th year, appearance changes to dark grey-brown with a buff-patch on the nape.
    • Mottling of retained brownish feathers.
    • At the end of the subadult phase (around 5 years), plumage becomes practically indistinguishable from the adult.
    • Full adult plumage is likely attained in 5 to 6 years.
  • Adult Distinctiveness:
    • Unmistakable in adulthood with no other black-colored raptor in its range approaching its size.
    • Distinctive patterns of white, making it unique.
  • Comparison with Golden Eagle:
    • Similar in size to the golden eagle, which is marginally larger.
    • Both species are the heaviest living Aquila species, rivaling the Australasian wedge-tailed eagle in total wing and bill-to-tail length.
  • Juvenile Plumage Distinctiveness:
    • Juvenile plumage is highly distinctive.
    • Mottled brownish body, blackish wings with large white patches.
    • Contrasting whitish, rufous, and golden color around the head and neck.
  • Flight Profile:
    • Distinctive flight profile with a pronounced dihedral.
    • Soars with wings slightly above the back and primaries upturned to create a V shape.
    • Shares this flight profile only with the golden eagle among Aquila species.
  • Range Overlap with Golden Eagle:
    • In the Bale Mountains of Ethiopia and possibly some parts of the Arabian Peninsula and the southwestern edge of the Middle East, ranges of golden and Aquila verreauxii overlap.
    • However, the golden eagle is mostly brown, lacking the Aquila verreauxii plumage.
  • Differences from Immature Golden Eagle:
    • Immature golden eagle has less extensive white patches on the underwing compared to Verreaux’s.
    • Wing shape differs, with Verreaux’s having very broad outer secondaries and a relatively narrow pinch at the base of the primaries, giving it a paddle, spoon, or leaf-shaped appearance.
  • Comparison with Imperial Eagles:
    • Imperial eagles also have white markings on wing coverts but differ in flight profile (flatter winged) and overall dark brown coloration.
Verreaux's Eagle


Its vocalizations are thought to be more strong than those of its close relative, the golden eagle, despite the fact that this species is mostly silent. It makes a variety of noises, from the inconspicuous pyuck, which is frequently heard in situations like pairs reuniting, to the delicate chicking and chirruping that

resembles a juvenile turkey or francolin. During contact calls or when pursuing intruders, the more noticeable vocalizations are loud, ringing calls such as whaeee-whaeee, heeeee-oh, or keeooo-keeooo. There is also a repertory of sounds that have been recorded, including yelps, mews, barks, and screams,

especially in reaction to possible mammalian predators. The juveniles of the species make weak chirps at first, then move on to clucks that are more like the adult vocalizations.

Habitat and distribution

It has specific preferences for its habitat, and it is rare to see it outside of this particular type of habitat. It usually grows in kopjes, which are stony, dry places with cliffs, gorges, and inselbergs. These can be steep hills or high mountains. These habitats are often encircled by sub-desert, thornbush, and savanna

environments. The eagle’s preference for arid areas with yearly rainfall averages under 60 centimeters (24 in) is indicative of its habitat selection. This particular ecological niche highlights the species’ ability to adapt to rocky and arid areas, highlighting its preference for settings that meet its specialized needs for habitat.

At elevations of up to 4,000 m (13,000 ft) in Ethiopia and East Africa, they breeds well. With possible sightings in Tanzania, its range extends from the Marra Mountains in Sudan through Eritrea, northern Somalia, most of Ethiopia, and possibly some mountains in northeastern Uganda, Kenya,

and the easternmost Democratic Republic of the Congo. Its range centers on Southeastern Africa, which includes most of Malawi’s mountain ranges with the exception of the Nyika Plateau, Mafinga Hills, and Lulwe Hills. These eagles are common in Zimbabwe, especially east of the central plateau, and Zambia,

especially along the escarpments surrounding Lake Kariba to the gorges below Victoria Falls. Their range include Mozambique, Eswatini, Lesotho, and South Africa, where they are primarily found in the Karoo, the Cape Fold Mountains, the Cape Peninsula, and the cliffs along the Great Escarpment.Verreaux’s

eagles are found in Botswana, western Namibia, and southwestern Angola (Serra da Chela), although their distribution is sparse outside of these areas. They are only recognized as vagrants in southwestern Cameroon, eastern Mali, northeastern Chad, the Aïr Mountains of Niger, and northeastern Chad.

In addition to Africa, They are now known to be uncommon breeders in the Middle East, where they have been observed in Yemen, Lebanon, Israel, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Oman.

Verreaux's Eagle

Dietary Ecology

The Cape hyrax (Procavia capensis) and the yellow-spotted rock hyrax (Heterohyrax brucei) make up the majority of their food, frequently accounting for over 90% of it. They are unique in that they pursue only one family of prey, demonstrating an extraordinary degree of

specialization. With only a few exceptions, such as the snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis) and the slender-billed kite (Helicolestes hamatus), which are recognized for their specialty on Pomacea snails, comparisons with other accipitrids highlight the rarity of such a specific dietary concentration. Notably,

they have a higher degree of specialization than even accipitrids named after their principal food source. The palm-nut vulture (Gypohierax angolensis), lizard buzzard (Kaupifalco monogrammicus), bat hawk (Macheiramphus alcinus), and maybe the rufous crab hawk (Buteogallus aequinoctialis) are a few

examples. They are known to have the most conservative diets of all the Aquila species, yet there is a variance with populations in South Africa showing higher nutritional variability than those in Zimbabwe.

  • In the Matobo Hills of Zimbabwe, 93.7% of Aquila verreauxii prey items consisted of two hyrax species, totaling 1,448 out of 1,550 recorded at eyries after the breeding season from 1995 to 2003.
  • In the same area, from 1957 to 1990, 98.1% of Aquila verreauxii diet was composed of rock hyrax.
  • In Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, 99.1% of Aquila verreauxii remains from a sample size of 224 at 102 nests were identified as hyrax.
  • Elsewhere in Tanzania, their diet was more mixed, with 53.7% of remains from 24 nests being hyrax.
  • In South Africa, they remains from a sample of 55 in a nest were 89.1% hyrax.
  • While no detailed statistics are available, hyrax is likely the main prey in every Aquila verreauxii population and has been mentioned to dominate the diet in Mozambique, Malawi and Botswana.
  • Approximately 400 hyrax may be taken through the year by a pair of Verreaux’s eagles with young.
  • The entire distribution of Aquila verreauxii aligns neatly with the distribution of the two species of rock hyrax.
  • To date, there are no known instances of Aquila verreauxii hunting the two species of tree hyraxes.

In the first ten years of ongoing monitoring in the Matobo Hills, there were just two recordedAquila verreauxii kills. Still, enough evidence of these eagles’ hunting habits has been gathered to shed light on how they get their prey. Verreaux’s eagles generally fly at low altitudes while quartering, diving quickly and

wildly in the seconds that follow being startled by a rock hyrax. Like the golden eagle, they skillfully uses the natural ground contours in rocky and mountainous areas to heighten the element of surprise by taking use of the hyraxes’ innate fear of a wide variety of predators. Although they

are uncommon, they have occasionally been seen hunting from a perch. There is evidence of cooperative hunting behavior, in which one eagle in a pair soars by to divert the prey while the other takes advantage of the situation to attack from behind. Although it primarily hunts on the ground, they

also uses other tactics, such as throwing hyraxes down cliffs and catching arboreal prey from treetops. This species requires about 350 g (12 oz) of food each day, which is about one-third more than a golden eagle’s, even though the latter has a slightly larger body weight[. Rock hyraxes are difficult

for humans to see because of their elusiveness; they only give fleeting glimpses. On the other hand, a Verreaux’s eagle exhibits incredible efficiency by taking off quickly to catch prey and landing back at the nest in a matter of minutes.

  • Yellow-spotted rock hyrax, one of the main prey species for Aquila verreauxii, weighs 1 to 3.63 kg (2.2 to 8.0 lb) on average, with Zimbabwe specimens being notably heavier.
  • Cape hyrax, another prey, has a weight range of 1.8 to 5.5 kg (4.0 to 12.1 lb), potentially larger than Verreaux’s eagles and challenging to kill.
  • Yellow-spotted rock hyraxes are more frequently taken in Matobo Hills due to their smaller size and diurnal habits.
  • Adult rock hyraxes are often selected, possibly because they are more exposed in the open.
  • 1- to 2-year-old male Cape hyraxes are vulnerable due to dispersal at sexual maturity.
  • Juvenile hyraxes constitute 11–33% of prey remains in the Western Cape and 18% in Matobo Hills.
  • Cape hyraxes are often consumed at the kill site or brought to the nest, risking competition or attacks by large carnivores.
  • They may predominantly hunt Cape hyraxes outside eastern Africa where the smaller species is distributed.
  • Compared to the golden eagle, they has a footpad about 20% wider, potentially adapting to the bulky rock hyrax.
  • The foot of Aquila verreauxii is reportedly larger than a human hand.
  • The enlarged rear hallux claw in females (52.3 mm) and males (49.1 mm) is similar in size to a golden eagle.
  • In South Africa, where Cape hyrax is the main prey, the estimated mean size of prey taken to the nest is 2.6 kg (5.7 lb).
  • In the Matobo Hills, with more yellow-spotted rock hyrax, they takes prey around 1.82 kg (4.0 lb), similar to golden eagles in Europe but smaller than in regions like Scotland or Mongolia.
Verreaux's Eagle

Other Prey

Verreaux’s eagles are capable of taking diverse prey, but this is infrequent in areas with healthy rock hyrax populations.Diverse food at nests signals rock hyrax decline or eagles in non-rocky habitat (Valerie Gargett).
In such areas, around 80% of Verreaux’s eagle prey is mammalian.
Less specialized eagles have diets similar to golden eagles, including hares, rabbits, ground squirrels, and grouse.
One study documented Aquila verreauxii preying on over 100 species, with recorded prey like antelopes, hares, rabbits, meerkats, mongooses, monkeys, squirrels, cane rats, bushbabies, lambs, kids, francolins, guineafowl, waterfowl, herons, egrets, bustards, pigeons, crows, doves, chickens, and a great sparrowhawk.
Avian prey sizes range from 102.6 g alpine swift to 7.26 kg adult male Denham’s bustards.
In Tanzania, from 41 nests, 53.7% of remains were hyraxes, 29.3% francolins, guineafowl, chickens, 12.2% antelopes, 2.4% hares, rabbits, and 2.4% mongoose.
South Africa recorded 145 tortoises out of 5748 prey items (2.5%).
Rarely, they preys on snakes, lizards, and even termites.

In South Africa, the commonest foods were (in descending order of preference): Cape hyrax, Smith’s red rock hare (Pronolagus rupertris), meerkat, mountain reedbuck (Redunca fulvorufula), goats and sheep, scrub hare (Lepus saxatilis), Cape francolin (Francolinus capensis), helmeted guineafowl (Numida meleagris), yellow mongoose (Cynictis penicillata) and Angulate tortoise (Chersina angulata).
In Matobo Hills’ “poor food areas,” three nests had 53.6% hyrax, 10.7% cane-rats, 7.1% monkeys, 7.1% mongoose, and 3.6% antelope.

From 1997 to 2005 in the same area, non-hyrax prey (each <10 out of 1550 prey items at nests) included white-tailed mongoose, steenbok, domestic goat, vervet monkey, Jameson’s red rock hare, helmeted guineafowl, Swainson’s francolin, Natal francolin, southern red-billed hornbill, rock pigeon, white-necked raven, leopard tortoise, and giant plated lizard.

In Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden, prey around nests shifted after hyrax decline: helmeted guineafowl, francolins, cane rats, rabbits, and dikdiks.
Young baboons, even large-bodied chacma baboons, are hunted, eliciting predator alarm calls.
Carrion occurrence is fairly frequent or none at all.
A Karoo study found two cases of Aquila verreauxii taking already dead lambs; contrasts with golden eagles eating dead lambs and occasionally hunting live ones.
An impressive range of mammalian carnivores is known to be taken, including genets, mongooses, felids, bat-eared foxes, and even black-backed jackals; carnivores become more significant in human-developed areas.
Rarely taken prey over 4.5 kg (9.9 lb), but some, like klipspringer, can reach up to an estimated 12 kg (26 lb).

Verreaux's Eagle

Interspecies competition

  • They, though highly specialized in hunting rock hyraxes, faces competition from various predators.
  • Crowned eagles and martial eagles, found in sub-Saharan Africa, may also favor rock hyraxes but have different habitats and hunting techniques.
  • Confrontations between Verreaux’s and martial eagles have occurred, with a Verreaux’s eagle robbing a martial eagle of rock hyrax prey.
  • Instances of kleptoparasitism include Aquila verreauxii stealing carrion from a lammergeier.
  • Verreaux’s eagles occasionally prey on other large raptors like vultures, including white-headed, white-backed, and Cape vultures.
  • Predation attempts on a juvenile Rüppell’s griffon were observed but abortive.
  • In the Bale Mountains of Ethiopia, they and golden eagles coexist, defending territories from each other, without negative impact on breeding activities due to differing prey preferences.
  • African hawk-eagles and tawny eagles may take a few hyraxes but are likely to avoid conflicts with larger eagles.
  • Other predators of rock hyraxes include felids (African wildcats, servals, caracals, leopards), jackals, African rock pythons, and owls (Verreaux’s eagle-owl or Cape eagle-owl).
  • Neonate rock hyraxes may fall prey to mongooses, venomous snakes (Egyptian cobras, puff adders), and other carnivores.
  • They exhibit caution due to competition; pirating attempts involve caracals, jackals, and even Ethiopian wolves.
  • Unlikely competitors for nest sites include baboons and geese.
  • Reintroduced they may lose fear of predators, resulting in fatal encounters with caracals.
  • Instances of Verreaux’s eagles swooping at leopards are more territorial displacement attempts, occasionally resulting in fatal outcomes for the eagles.
  • They are generally not aggressive toward humans but may swoop uncomfortably close during nest investigations.


Territoriality and movements

They are thought to have an average home range of 10.9 km2 (4.2 sq mi). Depending on the location, breeding pair densities can range from one per 10.3 km2 (4.0 sq mi) in Zimbabwe’s Matobo Hills to one per 24 km2 (9.3 sq mi) in the Karoo, one per 25 km2 (9.7 sq mi) in East Africa, and one every

28 km2 (11 sq mi) in Ethiopia’s Bale Mountains. One pair per 35 to 65 km2 (14 to 25 sq mi) is the known maximum spacing observed in the Magaliesberg and Drakensberg ranges. With remarkably stable territories that endure over the seasons and years, the Matobo Hills are home to one of the largest

breeding numbers of any big eagle. Such stability is expected in long-lived raptors residing in tropical regions with a relatively consistent food supply, unaffected by the seasonal variations found in temperate zones. Although home ranges in the Matobo Hills ranged from 6 to 14 km2 (2.3 to 5.4 sq mi), most were

found to cover up to 5 km2 (1.9 sq mi) of kopje habitat. Their population remarkably show little variation despite large oscillations in hyrax numbers, with peaks and troughs indicating four-fold shifts. In troughs, eagles can disappear for a while or find other food sources; this happens, on average,

once every 20 years and is more pronounced during dry spells.There is disagreement about whether Verreaux’s eagles are partially migrants or stationary; some authors claim that the eagle is a partial migratory. The species, like most raptors breeding in Sub-Saharan Africa, follows a pattern where the

young scatter widely upon leaving their parent’s territory, while the adults usually remain sedentary within their home range throughout their lives. Therefore, this discrepancy is more semantic than indicative of unclear behavior.

  1. They displays are a year-round phenomenon, with frequent occurrences triggered by the presence of other soaring pairs or when repelling intruders from their territory.
  2. The display is not limited to territorial concerns but can also be prompted by anxiety about the nest when humans or large mammals approach too closely.
  3. During the male’s display, he engages in undulating flights at a great height, reaching up to 305 m (1,001 ft) before plunging down and swiftly rising again.
  4. The aerial acrobatics include swinging to and fro like a pendulum, somersaults, and sideways rolls at the peak before descending.
  5. Pairs of eagles often engage in coordinated displays, circling or making figures of eight over their territory.
  6. Intricate maneuvers involve one bird rolling over and presenting claws in flight, or the male flying behind the female with exaggeratedly upcurved wings.
  7. The prevailing belief is that most displays in Aquila eagles are territorial, occurring along the boundary of their home range rather than near the nest.
  8. Displays may escalate into aerial fights between territorial birds, featuring talon-grappling and tumbling.
  9. In some instances, these aerial battles may escalate to the point where the eagles clasp each other and whirl downwards, with one account reporting such a fight resulting in the birds plunging into the sea.
Verreaux's Eagle


Nesting Density in Zimbabwe60 pairs may nest in 620 km2 (240 sq mi), equivalent to 1 pair per 10.3 km2 (4.0 sq mi), with this being an exceptional occurrence.
Nesting Density in East AfricaOne pair nests each 25 km2 (9.7 sq mi).
Nesting Density in South AfricaSometimes as little as 1 pair per 10.2 to 15 km2 (3.9 to 5.8 sq mi), but more typically around 60 km2 (23 sq mi).
Number of Nests Built per PairIn the Matobo Hills, the average number of nests built per pair is 1.4. Eagles nesting in the Karoo have larger territories.
Nest Distribution in Matobo HillsThe species is near the breeding population capacity level in the Matobos, with almost unlimited nests unevenly distributed among rocky kopjes.
Nest Construction Material and DimensionsNests are broad but not deep, made of green branches and lined with green leaves. They can be up to 1.8 m (71 in) across and 2 m (6.6 ft) deep. A nest depth of around 0.6 m (2.0 ft) is typical, but one old nest was 4.1 m (13 ft) deep. Nests are typically on cliffs, in overhung crevices, small caves, or open ledges. Nest sites are marked by ‘whitewash’ from birds’ droppings.
Nest LocationsThey are the most cliff-dependent of all eagle species, with nests primarily on cliffs, often in overhung crevices, small caves, or on open ledges. Rarely, they may nest in trees, such as Euphorbia or Acacia, or even on electric pylons in some cases.
Nest Construction Duration and ParticipantsA new nest takes up to four months to construct, with both sexes participating, although the female usually takes the lead. Several hundred feet of rope may be needed for humans to reach the nest.
Nest PredationPredation of young in the nest is suspected or anecdotal, involving African rock pythons, baboons, and caracals. However, predation is believed to be rare due to the inaccessibility of nests and the bold defenses of the parent eagles. Eagles have been reported dropping sticks on potential nest predators.
Egg Laying Period and Geographic VariationEgg laying may occur from November to August in Sudan and Arabia, October to May in Ethiopia and Somalia, year-round in East Africa (with a peak of June to December), and anywhere from April to November in Africa from Zambia southwards.
Nesting Behavior Before Egg LayingIn an unusual behavior, males may bring food to females before egg laying, and males typically bring almost all food during the incubation stage.
Egg Characteristics and Laying FrequencyTwo eggs are generally laid, with a range of one to three. Eggs are chalky white, sometimes with a bluish tinge or reddish-brown markings, measuring from 71 to 83.4 mm (2.80 to 3.28 in) in length and 56–62 mm (2.2–2.4 in) in width, with an average of 76.9 mm × 58.6 mm (3.03 in × 2.31 in). Eggs are laid at three-day intervals.
Incubation Period and Parental RolesIncubation is 43 to 47 days, with both sexes participating. The female takes the major share and tends to sit all night over the eggs. Hatching occurs about 2–3 days apart, and the Verreaux’s eagle is considered an “obligate cainist,” with the older sibling normally killing the younger one in over 90% of observed nests.
Fledging Stage and Post-Fledging BehaviorThe eaglet fledges from the nest at 95–99 days in Equatorial Africa, sometimes as little as 90 days further south. Early in the fledging stage, the male brings more food, later, the female takes over. After leaving the nest, family parties may stay together for up to 6 months. The young eagle grows stronger after the first month.
Verreaux's Eagle

Population and Status

The success rate of Verreaux’s eagles’ nests is 40–50% year, and it rises when hyrax are prevalent. Compared to 24% in wealthier areas, 66% of people in poorer food areas did not try to breed. Less breeding occurs in the wetter years; about 90% of efforts occur in the 300 mm and 45% of tries occur in

the 1,000 mm of rainfall years. Nesting success is negatively impacted by an unmated adult’s persistent incursion in the Matobo Hills. The population is thought to number in the tens of thousands, with an estimated average lifespan of 16 years. There are probably about 2,000 breeding pairs in the western

Cape, and about 240 pairs in northeastern South Africa. The kopje habitat is ideal for Verreaux’s eagles since it is less susceptible to human devastation than other areas. They don’t often eat carrion, which lowers the chance of poisoning. On the other hand, misinformation about their potential threat to small

cattle leads to persecution. The local hunting of rock hyraxes, which causes declines and unsuccessful nesting attempts, is a major problem. The Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden’s eagle breeding data revealed few changes, even in the face of declining hyrax populations. Breeding behavior in the garden

was not negatively impacted by high human activities. In South Africa, the total number of pairs decreased from 78 in 1980 to 27 in 1988, of which 19 were in preserves. It is thought that artificial feeding helps breeding pairs survive when natural prey populations dwindle.

Common Names in Different Languages

LanguageCommon Name
EnglishVerreaux’s Eagle
FrenchAigle de Verreaux
SpanishÁguila de Verreaux
ItalianAquila di Verreaux
DutchVerreaux’ arend
ZuluiNtsikulu (or uNtsikulu)
SwahiliTai wa Verreaux
ShonaNgungwa wa Verreaux
Verreaux's Eagle


1. What is Verreaux’s Eagle?

The Black Eagle, or Aquila verreauxii, is a huge predatory bird of the Accipitridae family. It is distinguished by its eye-catching black feathers and characteristic white “V” on its back.

2. Where is Verreaux’s Eagle found?

Native to several African countries, including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Sudan, is Aquila verreauxii. They live on cliffs and rocky environments, especially in mountainous areas.

3. What is the size and appearance of Verreaux’s Eagle?

These eagles have enormous wings, measuring between 1.8 and 2.2 meters. They have yellow legs and eyes, a short tail, and black plumage with a white “V” on their back. The appearance of males and females is similar.

4. What is their nesting behavior?

They typically construct their nests in tiny caverns or overhanging fissures on rocks. They build wide, not very deep nests lined with green leaves and composed of green branches.

5. What is their breeding season?

In general, the breeding season lasts from November to August in Sudan and Arabia, from October to May in Ethiopia and Somalia, and all year round in East Africa. However, this varies depending on the region.

6. How many eggs do they lay, and how long is the incubation period?

They typically deposit two eggs, which take 43 to 47 days to hatch. After the eggs hatch, both parents tend to the chicks, with the female doing the majority of the incubation.

7. Are Verreaux’s Eagles endangered?

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List, Verreaux’s Eagles are considered a “Least Concern” species. Localized hazards, however, can affect certain populations. Examples of these include habitat degradation and prey hunting.

8. What is their lifespan?

The estimated average lifespan of Verreaux’s Eagles is around 16 years.

9. Do they face any human-related threats?

Yes, even though these eagles don’t pose a threat to cattle, they are occasionally attacked because of erroneous beliefs that they do. Furthermore, human hunting of their prey in specific areas may have an effect on their attempts to nest.

10. How can people help in the conservation of Verreaux’s Eagles?

People may help conserve these birds by endorsing policies that lessen risks from humans, protecting their habitat, and spreading knowledge about how important these birds are. Protecting their populations is also greatly aided by conservation organizations.

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