When thinking of eagles, most do not picture a bird that is known for stealing prey from other animals, but the African Fishing Eagle is one that tends to have “sticky talons.” Distributed far and wide throughout Africa, the African Fishing Eagles is the national bird of four different countries, and their iconic vocalizations are ones that have been called the “sound of Africa.” Frequently seen perching in tall trees near rivers and shores, they are doing more than just surveying their territory, they are looking to see who is going to find them their next meal.
African Fishing Eagles are known as kleptoparasites, which means they habitually steal food from other species. Their common victims are goliath herons and saddle-billed storks, but they don’t discriminate when going for an easy meal. While these birds can scavenge with the best of them, they are also formidable hunters that don’t just eat fish, contrary to their common name. They are efficient predators that also prey on mammals, birds, lizards, frogs, and carrion. The more unique species off of their menu include flamingos, monkeys, and even crocodiles. To help hold on to prey that tends to be a little slippery, fish eagles toes are coated in sharp barbs called spiricules.
As a top predator, African Fishing Eagles can be an indicator species for the health of the aquatic ecosystem that they inhabit. Scientists will use the strength of the fish eagle population to help establish fish crop population, pollution in the waterways, and other factors such as habitat alteration. Like many bird species, pesticides are affecting more than just the crops and farming people are trying to save. The chemicals we put into the environment have ways of trickling down the food web. Even if you do not reside in the African Fishing Eagle’s habitat, consider rotating your plants or planting different kinds of vegetables in each section of your garden each year to help reduce pest infestation. Together we can establish a healthy world where all things can thrive.
- “African Fish Eagle.” African Fish Eagle | The Peregrine Fund, peregrinefund.org/explore-raptors-species/eagles/african-fish-eagle.
- “African Fish Eagle.” Http://Www.krugerpark.co.za, www.krugerpark.co.za/africa_fish_eagle.html.
- Orban, David. “Haliaeetus Vocifer (African Fish Eagle).” Animal Diversity Web, animaldiversity.org/accounts/Haliaeetus_vocifer/.