How to Spot the Popular Bateleur Eagle

Jun 15 2016

According to the  Kruger National Park, the bateleur eagle is probably the most popular of the snake eagles, and the easiest for bird-watchers to spot. Karen van Demme while on vacation (to book your own wildlife safari experience contact  Latest Sightings Vacations) at Sanbonani in Hazyview, was enjoying both game-viewing and birding-watching when she spotted this perched eagle pair on a dirt road between Pabeni and Numbi Gates on the S3.

A dedicated bird-watcher she immediately stopped to observe the pair grooming themselves, before the heat of the day set in. She explains, 'The best time to seek out bateleurs is either early morning, or late afternoon in trees. This is because commonly during the day they spend their time flying.' If it is the bateleur you next seeking to tick off of your bird list, Kruger is the place to find them!

Baterleurs are easily identified by their red faces & legs, the striking black brown & white coloured plumage, and their short tails. The sexes are differentiated in flight by their white under-wings and black edges.  An easy way to sex them is the female wears her white wedding dress (underwing mainly white with a small black edge flight feathers) and the male wears his black tuxedo (white underwing with broader black edge). 
Their status in South Africa is 'vulnerable', and as they are rare or extinct in developed areas, they are usually only seen in conservation areas. Their IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) status is 'near threatened' as they are prone to feeding on poisoned bait which is set out for jackals.
Karen says, 'They are such beautiful birds and they are not wide-spread in the rest of South Africa (as you will see if you check the distribution map for them) so seeing them perched and preening is a wonderful treat.  They are not incredibly shy birds, and therefore as long as one does not startle them they will ignore onlookers.' 


 Commentary and photography by Karen van Demme



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