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Everything You Wanted to Know About the Verreaux's Eagle

I have always had an interest in nature and birds of prey in particular. Learn about these majestic creatures that grace our skies.

Another of Africa’s large birds of prey is the Verreaux’s Eagle. With its striking black plumage, this large eagle is also known as the Black Eagle and is found in the sub-Saharan regions of southern and eastern Africa. Built much like the Golden Eagle, the Verreaux’s Eagle was named for the French ornithologist and botanist, Jules Verreaux. Verreaux visited South Africa in the early 1800s and helped to found the South African Museum in Cape Town.

Description

The Verreaux’s Eagle is mostly black with a very distinctive white V on its back, which is appropriate with its name. They have white feathers on the underside of their wings and at the base of their backs. Their coloring gives them a very distinctive look and they are easily recognizable. The male and female are very similar in color and the female is slightly larger than the male, which is typical of birds of prey. Males weigh on average between 6 to 10 pounds while females average 7 to 13 pounds. Although the Verreaux’s Eagle is not as large as the Martial Eagle, Africa’s largest eagle, they are still a formidable bird of prey.

The Verreaux’s Eagle can measure up to three feet in length and will vary from about 30 inches up to 38 inches. They have an impressive wingspan that can reach over seven feet and are very capable and agile aviators. They have dark eyes and a yellow and grey beak. Their feet are quite large and are about twenty percent larger than that of the Golden Eagle, even though the Verreaux’s is slightly smaller than the Golden. This is most likely due to the overall larger size of their prey which requires larger feet and talons for carrying their victims.

Young Verreaux’s Eagles are usually lighter in color and appear to have a mix of light and dark brown coloring with a black face. They are born with a fluffy white down coat, but quickly transition into a beautiful array of brown, black, tan, and white before they reach their adult coloring.

Verreaux's Eagle in flight

Verreaux's Eagle in flight

Habitat and Range

The Verreaux’s Eagle is found only in Africa and they are particularly fond of the mountainous and rocky terrain of Eastern and Southern Africa. This eagle needs a rather large range in which to hunt, up to ten square kilometers.

While they are fairly concentrated along the eastern and southern parts of Africa there are also local pockets located in Chad and western Africa. The Verreaux’s Eagle needs this mountainous terrain with rocky ledges and cliffs in which to nest and hunt their favorite prey, the rock hyrax.

Range

Unlike most other species of eagle, the Verreaux’s Eagle usually build their nests on cliff ledges as opposed to trees. The nest is quite large, measuring up to six feet across and is made of sticks with an inner lining of green leaves. The nest can be up to three feet deep and will sometimes have a whitewashed look to it, which is the result of the bird’s droppings. They will also sometimes build more than one nest and will switch from one nest to the other from year to year. Nest building or reconstruction usually takes place from March to April in anticipation of the female laying eggs in April.

A pair of Verreaux's Eagles

A pair of Verreaux's Eagles

Diet

The favorite prey of the Verreaux’s Eagle is the hyrax, which is a small mammal that is also referred to as a dassie. The rock hyrax is found in the mountainous, rocky areas of Africa and they usually live in groups of up to eighty animals.

The rock hyrax is a rotund little creature that can weigh up to nine pounds. The size of the Verreaux’s territory is usually directly related to the size and location of the hyrax population. If the hyrax population is limited the Verreaux’s Eagle will expand it’s hunting range and may resort to hunting other prey including guinea-fowl, hares, rabbits, tortoises, and other small to medium sized mammals.

Hyrax

The hunting method of the Verreaux’s Eagle is normally one that involves stealth and surprise, as they like to swoop around the craggy edges of cliffs to surprise and startle their prey. They will sometimes hunt from a perch but this is done less frequently. The Verreaux’s Eagle has also been known to hunt in pairs, which is quite unique for eagles, but helps to increase the element of surprise. If food is scarce they may also resort to stealing food from other raptors or to eating carrion.

Aerial Duel

An aerial duel between a Verreaux's Eagle and a Lanner Falcon

An aerial duel between a Verreaux's Eagle and a Lanner Falcon

Breeding

Like other eagles and birds of prey the Verreaux’s Eagle will mate for life. Once a mate is found the pair will begin the process of constructing a nest. The female will usually lay two eggs, very rarely three, sometime between April and June. The eggs will be laid approximately four days apart. It will take about forty-five days for the eggs to hatch and both eagles will share in the incubation process with the female doing about seventy percent of the work.

The chicks will hatch about four days apart and this starts what is known as the Cain and Abel stage. During this stage the older of the two chicks will attack and eventually kill its younger sibling over the course of a week or so in one of those odd survival-of-the-fittest scenarios of nature.

While the chick is still young the male will bring food to the nest for the female to feed the eaglet. The female will stay in the nest to defend and protect the chick and she alone will feed the eaglet. Fledging will take place about 97 days after the chick hatches.

The young eagle will choose its moment to leave the nest for the first time and this starts a three month period in which the parents will teach the young eagle the skills necessary to survive on its own.

Toward the end of this period, usually sometime in November to December, the male parent will start to show aggression towards the young eagle. With the skills to survive on its own the young eagle will fly further and further from the nest and will eventually not return to the territory. When this happens another successful breeding season has finished and the parents will rest for the next couple of months before starting the process over again.

Status

The Verreaux’s Eagle is currently classified as of Least Concern, which means that the species currently does not qualify as threatened.

As with most large birds of prey with no natural predators we humans are the biggest threat to the species. Urban development is the biggest factor as this inevitably leads NOT to the destruction of their habitat, which is rocks and mountains, but to a decline in the hyrax population, which is turn forces the Verreaux’s to seek other food sources or territories. Those eagles that reside just outside of cities and urban areas are feeling the strain of a reduced hyrax population. While the presence of humans itself does not appear to adversely affect the birds, the result of development on their food source does. Working in the favor of the Verreaux’s Eagle is the fact that the range of many of these eagles is in remote mountainous areas so they are less affected by human intervention?

The total population of Verreaux’s Eagles is estimated at somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000. While this is a rather large range and certainly not an exact number, the difficulty in counting the Verreaux’s Eagle is partly due to their remote habitat and the lack of monitoring, except in a few areas.

Regardless of their vulnerability, steps are being taken to insure the long-term survival of this beautiful bird. Educational programs are helping to enlighten communities about these magnificent eagles and to show the public that these birds can help to control rodent populations while generating tourism dollars to their communities. The bottom line is that it’s a win-win for everyone when the Verreaux’s Eagles are thriving.

Interesting Facts on the Verreaux's Eagle

  • The Verreaux's Eagle is one of four large eagle species in Africa. The other three are the African Fish Eagle, the Crowned Eagle, and the Martial Eagle.
  • In some areas, the hyrax makes up over 90 percent of the Verreaux's diet. This is one of the most diet-specific birds of prey in the world.
  • The Verreaux's Eagles have a very high success rate when hunting, which is a result of their hunting in pairs.
  • Because of their black coloring the Verreaux's Eagle is much more uncomfortable in the heat than in the cold. On hot days they can be seen panting, much like a dog does.
  • The Verreaux's Eagle is an amazing flying machine. They can often be seen riding the thermals and gliding for long periods.
  • The Verreaux's Eagle can live to forty years in the wild.
  • Although they mate for life, they will replace their companion if he or she meets an untimely fate.

Other Articles on Eagles

  • Birds of Prey - The Bald Eagle
    The American Bald Eagle is the most majestic and revered of all Birds of Prey across North America. Honored and respected by Native Americans for centuries, this beautiful bird is perhaps the most famous of all Birds of Prey.
  • Birds of Prey - The Steller's Sea Eagle
    The Steller's Sea Eagle is one of the largest and most powerful Birds of Prey found throughout the world. Take a look at this impressive eagle that is found only in the northeastern reaches of Asia.

© 2013 Bill De Giulio

Comments

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 13, 2014:

Hi Amanda. Thank you. The Verreauxs Eagle really is a beautiful creature. It is nice to find a species of eagle that is not critically endangered. Thanks for stopping by, have a great day.

Amanda Littlejohn on March 13, 2014:

Another wonderful account of a wonderful bird. really this is a very beautiful eagle indeed.

And how nice to read of a creature that isn't (at least yet) threatened with extinction!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on February 23, 2014:

Hi Nick. Thank you. I am as fascinated with eagles as you are. They are amazing creatures. I just hope enough is being done to protect these endangered birds.

nick on February 23, 2014:

Since last night i was reading almost all of your blogs about birds of prey. I love these bird very unique though it only have a single black color but its impresive in its own way. Mysterious and upredictable looking raptor but very dramatic in beauty.

Thanks Bill for taking time to write. You have given many eagle fanatics like me amazed with your blogs.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 26, 2013:

Hi Karen. Yeah, when I started looking at pictures of the hyrax (dassie) I felt bad that this cute little creature is the Verreaux's favorite meal. But, as you say it is the circle of life and the balance of nature.

I do agree with you that raptors are just magnificent birds, which is why I really enjoy writing about them. Thank for stopping by.

Karen Robiscoe from California on May 26, 2013:

aww...that lil dassy is so cute. The circle of life and all...but...I must say, raptors are the most handsome of birds. no wonder the term: hawk-like is a compliment...:)

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 10, 2013:

Hi Abdus. Thanks for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed reading about the Verreaux's Eagle. They certainly are an amazing creature.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 10, 2013:

Hi Aminah. Thank you for stopping by. The Verreaux's certainly is an amazing bird, would love to see one someday in the wild. So glad you enjoyed this one. Thank you for the vote, have a great weekend.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 10, 2013:

Hi Peggy. There were so many unique things about the Verreaux's Eagle that really them so interesting to me. I agree, how sad that nature does not allow both chicks to survive.

Thank you as always for the support, vote, pin, share, etc. Have a wonderful weekend.

Abdus Salam from Bangladesh on May 10, 2013:

Excellent hub about Verreauxs Eagle. Thanks for sharing..

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 09, 2013:

Hi Bill,

What a magnificent article about the Verreauxs Eagle. I might never have heard of it since it only resides in Africa. Interesting that the older chicks kill off the younger ones. Rather sad for the ones who follow that birth order! Also amazing that their food of choice is so limited to cute hyrax creatures. Up votes and will pin to my birds board and share.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 07, 2013:

Hi Deb. It sure is. Just an amazing eagle. They are perfectly crafted for their habitat and the main prey. Isn't nature wonderful? Thanks for stopping by, have a great day.

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on May 07, 2013:

This is a gorgeous eagle. I can see why the feet are so large. Nature has an amazing way of handling things.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 06, 2013:

Hi rebekah. I totally agree with you. When I think of birds I think of the robins and cardinals in my backyard. These large eagles are in a class of their own. They really are majestic. If only man would leave their habitat alone they would do just fine on their own.

Being in Florida you have many wonderful birds of prey including the bald eagle and the osprey, both beautiful. Thanks so much for the visit.

rebekahELLE from Tampa Bay on May 06, 2013:

What an incredibly beautiful bird. It's almost strange referring to them as a bird because they have such a powerful, majestic presence about them. I think there is so much we can learn from these beautiful, winged creatures. The image at the close of the article is breathtaking. Also the video is wonderful. A beautiful hub!

I remember vividly when we first moved to Florida, one of the first birds we saw when driving through a wooded area to reach a park was a bald eagle. We saw it's nest. It is a beautiful sight to behold.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 05, 2013:

Hi Peg. Thanks for the nice comments. There certainly are interesting and beautiful. They live only in Africa in the mountainous and rocky areas, mostly in the southern and eastern parts of Africa. Many thanks for the visit and follow. Bill

Peg Cole from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on May 05, 2013:

These are fascinating creatures and beautiful in flight. Wow, what an interesting article, full of detail and gorgeous pictures. If I hadn't read that these birds live only in South America, I would have sworn that I have 3 of their brothers in my yard who come back year after year.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 05, 2013:

Thanks Alicia, glad you enjoyed it. It just amazes me how many magnificent species of eagle there are throughout the world. As always, thank you for the support, shares, etc... Have a wonderful day.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 05, 2013:

This is another excellent addition to your birds of prey series, Bill. I loved reading about the Verreaux's eagle and looking at the photos of this magnificent bird. I will share this hub.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 05, 2013:

Hi Carol. Thank You. Not sure I'm an expert at anything but I do love researching these beautiful and amazing birds. I'm so glad that you enjoy reading about them, I try to do at least per month.

Thank you again for the wonderful support, I very much appreciate my HP's friends. Have a great day.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 05, 2013:

Hi Joe, The particular eagle certainly has some unique and interesting traits. The one-dimensional diet and the hunting in pairs I found very interesting. Also, the Cain and Abel struggle when two eaglets are born, while sad, is another unique trait. Would love to see them in the wild someday but that might be a stretch given their somewhat remote and limited habitat in Africa.

Thanks again for taking the time to stop by. Enjoy the weekend.

carol stanley from Arizona on May 05, 2013:

Well I know for sure you are an expert on Italy and Birds and I know many other things. I loved learning about these eagles and always so well written....

Hawaiian Odysseus from Southeast Washington state on May 05, 2013:

Hi, Bill!

What a fascinating and beautiful bird! It was very interesting to read how it is especially diet-specific. The hydrax, like a rabbit, must multiply in large quantities to satisfy the one-dimensional food chain ecosystem going on. The fact that the V. eagle mates for life may explain why it is also continent-specific. In the case of this unique creature, there certainly is no place like home. Thank you for sharing, Bill! Aloha, and have a great week, my friend!

Joe

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 05, 2013:

Hi Suzie. Thanks for the nice comments. It's kind of interesting how we find these niches to write about. I don't even remember what exactly got me started on this birds of prey series but I must say I really enjoy learning and writing about these fascinating birds. I do very much appreciate your support, thank you as always for the vote, share, pin, etc. Have a wonderful day.

Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on May 04, 2013:

Hi Bill,

What a stunning bird The Verreaux Eagle is. Incredible wing span when seen in flight as shown in your "Aerial Dual" photo in particular.Truly amazing photo to end with too, so regal looking! Loved all the interesting info you never fail to provide in this awesome series of Birds of Prey. Thanks to you I have become such a fan of these incredible birds. Great write again my friend, you have certainly found a real winning niche here as you have in your Italian and Travel ones. Votes, shares everywhere, pinned . . . . . excellent as always!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 04, 2013:

Hi Bill. As long as there is another unique bird of prey out there I'll continue writing about them. I would love to see a few of these amazing creatures in the wild some day.

Thanks for the continued support, very much appreciated. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 04, 2013:

Hi Mary. Like you I find these birds fascinating. Every time I discover a new eagle from another part of the world I get really excited about learning and writing about them. Can you imagine a seven foot wingspan? I find that just incredible. There certainly are some amazing creatures on this planet. As always thank you for stopping by.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 04, 2013:

Thank you rajan. Glad you enjoyed reading about the Verreaux's Eagle. I really enjoy discovering and learning about these amazing birds. Many thanks for the share, pin, etc...

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 04, 2013:

That close up shot at the end is spectacular. I again have never heard of this bird. Good thing I have you around to educate me. :)

Well done Bill!

Have a great weekend.

Mary Craig from New York on May 04, 2013:

What a majestic bird! I can not even imagine a bird with a wingspan that can reach over seven feet, I'm five foot seven for Pete's sake. I love birds and that makes your series so enjoyable to me. I just think they are fascinating. I've been involved with some type of bird most of my life though no one would let me get the Macaw I always wanted so I had to entertain myself with one at school until I retired! So not only are your hubs enjoyable but so educational and you come up with some very interesting birds.

Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 04, 2013:

Bill, I love your series on "Birds of prey". This as usual was packed with information. The Verreaux Eagle is certainly very beautiful to look at and has really powerful legs which they probably need like their feet and talons, considering the size of their prey.

Very enjoyable read.

Voted up and interesting. Shared and pinned as well.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 04, 2013:

Hi Sheila. When I read that the stronger chick kills the younger one I was pretty upset and disappointed but I suppose this is the life of a Verreaux's Eagle. Otherwise they are a fascinating bird and another one of Africa's beautiful eagles. Thanks so much for the blog link and of course taking the time to stop by. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on May 04, 2013:

Another wonderful hub on the amazing eagles! You know I love your hubs on these wonderful birds. This one is just as interesting and beautiful as your others! It seems a shame that the stronger of the chicks will kill the other, not much brotherly love going on there! Another great job, Bill! Voted up and awesome. Linking on my wildlife blog too! :)

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