Birds of Prey Programme

Western Cape Black Eagle Project

The project aims to compare and contrast aspects of the biology of Verreaux’s Eagles in the Table Mountain National Park (a small isolated, mountain range, bounded by Cape Town and its suburbs) and in the Eastern False Bay mountains (similar habitat, less impacted by development, adjacent to the mountain ranges of the interior) with those of Verreaux’s Eagles in the Sandveld (West Coast up to Vredendal, which includes Piketberg and the western edge of Clanwilliam mountains), Karoo (Nuweveldberge of the Karoo National Park) and the Cederberg (true wilderness). In order for this aim of the project to be realised tracking devices need to be fitted to young black eagles before they fledge in order to monitor their dispersal.

Verreaux's Eagle (Aquila verreauxii) is a large African bird of prey. It is also called the Black Eagle, especially in Southern Africa, leading to potential confusion with the Indian Black Eagle (Ictinaetus malayensis), which lives in Asia. Verreaux's Eagle has precise habitat requirements and is rare outside of its particular habitat type. It lives in kopjes, which are dry, rocky environments in anything from rocky hills to high mountains amongst cliffs, gorges and inselbergs. Verreaux's Eagle is a very large eagle. It measures 75 to 96 cm long from the bill to the tip of the tail, making it the sixth longest eagle in the world. Other than the female’s slight size advantage, adult males and females are physically indistinguishable from each other. Adult Verreaux's Eagles are mostly jet-black in color. The yellow coloration of the cere (the bill is gun-metal grey), eye-ring and “eye-brows”, all stand out in contrast to the black plumage. Even more prominent on flying birds when seen from above is the white on the back, rump and upper-tail coverts and part of the scapulars, which forms a V-shaped patch, although this feature is partially obscured in perched birds. Adults also have conspicuous white windows on the wing quills at the carpal joint (at the base of the primaries) when seen flying both from above and below. The bill is stout, the head is prominent on the relatively long neck and the legs are fully feathered. Juvenile and immature plumages differ markedly from the plumage of adults. They are overall a dark brown color.