Friday, November 19, 2010

Crowned Eagle

(Image Source)
Stephanoeatus coronatus  is the second largest Eagle in Africa, behind the slightly larger Martial Eagle. They are also sometimes referred to as the Crowned Hawk-Eagle. Their common name comes from a crest of feathers on their heads, and they have dark bodies with mottled undersides. They have short but powerful wings that are excellent for flying in wooded areas. Their distribution is patchy, but covers areas in Sub-Saharan and East Africa.

Crowned Eagles primarily hunt mammals, including monkeys, feral cats, and small antelope. They are able to take down animals that weigh up to 44lbs, using their long, powerful hind talons to break spines. The downside to larger prey is that they can't carry it with them, and so they will rip the meal up in chunks and carry it back to be stored in trees and consumed later. Mated pairs will sometimes hunt cooperatively.

Courtship for the Crowned Eagles involves a quite amazing display. The male will perform a series of ascents and dives, waiting at the top of each dive and calling out for the female. If she decides to join him, they lock talons and fall together, coming apart just before the ground. Nests can become massive structures that span over six feet in diameter, and the pair will use it year after year. Sadly, if two eggs are laid and hatched, the stronger (and usually older) chick will almost always kill its weaker sibling. Chicks grow their crests after two months, and fledge between three and four, but can remain dependent on its parents for over a year.

Crowned Eagles are listed as being of Least Concern by the IUCN.

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