Birds – Bateleur Eagle

Markedly different in general appearance and coloration, and perhaps not correctly referred to this subfamily, is the striking and handsome Bateleur Eagle (Helotarsus Ecaudatus) of Africa below the Sahara. It is a small eagle, the male being about twenty-one and the female twenty-five inches in length, and is remarkable among other things for the relatively long and pointed wings and the extreme shortness of the tail, this being shorter by more than the length of the tarsus than the wings, which, combined with the large, very much crested head, give it a peculiar ” dumpy ” appearance. The head and neck all around, as well as the under parts, are glossy black, while the hind neck and back are rich maroon. The scapulars are black, the wing-coverts bronzy brown, the primaries blackish, and the secondaries ashy gray with black tips. The tail and its under coverts are deep maroon, while the under wing-coverts and secondaries beneath are white. To complete the picture the cere, orbits, and feet are coral-red, the bill black, and the iris brown. The Bateleur Eagle is a not uncommon species in many parts of Africa, Andersson, for instance, regarding it as the most common Eagle in Damara and Great Namaqua Lands. There he found it usually in the plains, although in other parts of its range it frequents open mountain districts. It is often seen soaring, at which it is described as a past master, almost equaling the Vultures, as it sails about without flapping a wing, but, says Mr. Abel Chapman, ” when they stoop they come out of the sky like a lightning flash.” There seems to be some disagreement as regards their food, some asserting that they kill their own prey and never, in a wild state, touch carrion, while others insist that it is fond of the latter food. That it feeds on snakes of all kinds is certain, and that it often captures the young or sick of various animals, birds, lizards, etc., is equally attested. The nest is always placed in trees, usually those of a very sturdy nature, and is composed of a large mass of sticks bound firmly together, but is without any kind of lining. The eggs are white and are said to be two to four in number. There is a form of this Eagle in which the back is cream-colored, but otherwise not different from the typical bird, that is regarded by some as entitled to specific rank, but it is possibly only a very old or fully adult stage of the Bateleur.