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Tawny Eagle

Aquila rapax


60 - 75cm

1.6 - 1.9m

1.6 - 3kg

11 - 16 yrs





The tawny eagle is a large bird of prey in the eagle family Accipitridae. It was once thought to be the same species as the steppe eagle (Aquila nipalesis) but, whilst they are closely related, research suggested they should be split. Of all the true eagles, the tawny eagle is one of the smallest by relative size.





Its upperparts are – true to its name – tawny in colouration, blending into a rusty brown. It has dark, blackish feathers on its wings (particularly the flight feathers) and tail, as well as a paler patch on the lower back. Notably, its legs are also heavily feathered. Compared to the steppe eagle, it is smaller and paler overall.

What Does it Look Like?


What Does it Sound Like?


Interestingly, for a bird of the tawny eagle’s might, it is not especially vocal. In fact, after observing its behaviour it has been established that tawny eagles remain silent most of the time, which is perhaps a reflection of its often sedentary lifestyle. However, it is capable of crow-like barking and, during courtship displays, it will harshly croak and grunt.


It hunts a variety of mammal species up to the size of a hare and will occasionally take small reptiles, birds and fish. However, it is opportunistic and so will not only exploit the availability of fresh carrion but will even go as far as to steal food from other raptors. It can be seen scouting for prey high in the air or from a perch atop a tree.

What Does it Eat?


Where Does it Nest?


The nest is usually built from sticks atop a thorny tree or electricity pylon, and will usually be reused over many years. After lining it with grass and leaves, the female will lay a clutch of just two eggs which are then incubated for about 40 days. Normally, in the 12 weeks in takes them to fledge, the strongest chick will have killed the other.


It is a resident breeder across most of the African continent, both north and south of the Sahara Desert. Its range also stretches into southern Arabia and across to India and Nepal. Due to this wide range, it can be found in a variety of habitats, but generally prefers open savanna and does not venture into forests or deserts.

Where Does it Live?


What is its Status?


Once considered of Least Concern, its status has been upgraded in response to the effects of both direct and indirect poisonings in the agricultural parts of south and east Africa, and it now relies on protected areas. It is thought it may benefit from well-regulated “vulture restaurants” which provide access to uncontaminated carcasses for scavengers.

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