This final post on South African birds is all about the raptors!
Martial eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus)
A fairly large eagle, the martial eagle is an impressive bird to see. It is known to eat prey that is larger than itself, like young impala or warthogs. Sometimes they might even kill other predators such as jackals or cubs of lion or leopard. When on the hunt, the martial eagle soars high above the ground followed by a sudden swoop as soon as it detects a prey. I haven’t witnessed a martial eagle with a prey, but just observing it sitting on the branch with its large talons was an unique experience.
Brown snake eagle (Circaetus cinereus)
As the name suggests this bird eats mostly snakes. It doesn’t discriminate in size or toxicity. To protect themselves from snake bites, they have thick skin on their legs. Having calloused feet is in their case an advantage!
Common buzzard (Buteo buteo)
I almost mistook this bird to be a young brown snake eagle. As the name suggests, this bird is fairly common and has a wide distribution. In the Netherlands for example, this bird is one of the most frequently seen predatory bird. The common buzzards in South Africa are most likely individuals migrating from the cold northern hemisphere winters. It is a generalist predator hunting prey that is as diverse as fish, reptiles, mammals and insects.
Lanner falcon (Falco biarmicus)
Another predatory bird that can be seen in (southern) Europe. This falcon looks a lot like other falcons (such as the Saker falcon) and to make identification even more difficult, hybrids between the falcons are known to occur. Therefore, I’m not 100% confident this is a true Lanner falcon, but it seems to be the best fit. They are bred in captivity for falconry.
African fish eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer)
A lot of times I wished the subject was closer so I could take a good look. However, I really liked how this picture turned out, because it shows the African fish eagle in its natural habitat. Close to open water and perched on a tree stump. It mostly eats fish, but occasionally it opts for small crocodiles, birds or small mammals. Like the martial eagle they mate for life and nests are reused.
I hope you enjoyed this last post on the birds I encountered in South Africa!