Crowned Eagle: Everything You Need To Know

crowned eagle

In the world of birds, the titles of African royalty must surely go to the magnificent Crowned Eagles. These regal birds truly embody the idea of power. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some Crowned Eagle facts and learn more about these awesome animals that should be on every birdwatcher’s bucket list of birds to see.

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Crowned Eagle: Everything You Need To Know

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What Is A Crowned Eagle? 

Also known as the Crowned Hawk-Eagle, African Crowned Eagles (Stephanoaetus coronatus) are massive eagles that are at home in the dense woodlands and forests of southern, central, and western Africa. These are the most powerful eagles on the continent of Africa and they specialize in hunting large prey, especially mammals like monkeys and even small antelopes. 

These birds blend in really well in their dense and shaded forest habitat and can be difficult to spot when perched. For that reason, they are most often seen while soaring high above the forest canopy. 

Crowned Eagles are territorial birds that don’t migrate. They can be quite aggressive towards humans because they don’t have all that much fear of us, even though they do of course have more to fear from us than we do of them.

African Crowned Eagle Appearance

african crowned eagle

Crowned Eagles are named for their large double crest that the birds can lift when excited. These majestic birds are boldly marked with heavily barred and blotched underparts. Their overall color is dark with shades of rufous-brown, black, gray, and tan. 

When seen in flight, African Crowned Eagles have a white tail and wings with bold black bars. Young Crowned Eagles look quite different from their parents and are much lighter in color with cream-white underparts and greyish backs and wings. 

Crowned Eagle Size

Crowned Eagles are massive birds that can measure over 3ft in length and weigh over 10lbs. As is the case with so many birds of prey, the female is significantly larger than the male. Like many forest hawks and eagles, their wingspan is surprisingly short, at about 6ft, and this has obvious benefits for birds that have to fly through dense areas where a broken wing could easily be fatal. 

Crowned Eagle Diet

crowned hawk-eagle

Crowned Eagles mostly focus on mammals as prey, although do also feed on large birds like Hadeda Ibises. Some of the most common animals that they hunt include the rock hyrax, small antelopes, and vervet monkeys, which can all way as much as, or more than the eagles themselves. 

How do Crowned Eagles Kill Their Prey?

These birds have incredibly powerful legs, thick, muscular toes, and giant talons which help them take down and quickly kill such large prey. Of course, it’s important that the eagles can kill their prey quickly and efficiently because large animals like monkeys can easily fight back and injure the eagle with their strength and sharp teeth. 

Crowned Eagles usually hunt by sitting silently within the branches of a large forest tree and dropping down onto unsuspecting animals foraging down below. They also sometimes hunt together in pairs for more difficult to catch animals like monkeys. Unfortunately, they have been known to hunt cats in suburban areas of South Africa, although it is definitely not the norm for healthy adult birds.  

How Much Weight Can An Eagle Carry?

 crown eagle

As powerful as Crowned Eagles are, there are obviously limits to what they can carry in the air. The maximum weight they can carry probably has a lot more to do with how much lift they can generate with their wings, than how strong their grip is.

Although there aren’t any studies that have measured how much weight African Crowned Eagles can carry, some estimates on Bald Eagle strength put their maximum carrying weight at four or five pounds, and they are similar sized birds.

Bushbuck, a common antelope of African forests are the largest prey animals that Crowned Eagles regularly kill. These animals can weigh over 40 pounds and are way too heavy for the eagles to carry whole, meaning the birds must feed on them where they are caught or carry portions of their prey to the nest.  

Do Crowned Eagles View Humans As Prey?

People do not form part of the diet of Crowned Eagles, so I wouldn’t say they view humans as prey. Physically, they are capable of attacking and preying on small children though, so it’s not an unfair question.

So, while Crowned Eagles don’t actively hunt people, considering the size of their prey and their habit of targeting monkeys, it’s not impossible that a small child could be taken. In fact, there are records of human skulls found at Crowned Eagle nests. Scary stuff!

Some researchers speculate that the Taung child, an ancient human-like child whose skull was found in South Africa, was killed by a Crowned Eagle, although this hasn’t been proved. 

Crowned Eagle Breeding

Crowned Eagles usually lay 2 eggs and they are most often laid in the spring. These eggs are incubated for about 7 weeks. Early life is pretty brutal in the nest of the Crowned Eagle because usually, only one chick survives in the nest, after killing and eating its own sibling.

At an age of around 4 months, baby Crowned Eagles take their first flights. Because of the difficulty and danger involved in hunting their large prey in the forest, Crowned Eagle parents will continue to support their young by providing food for another 10 months or so. 

Types Of Crowned Eagles

Today there is only one type of Crowned Eagle in existence, although up until a few hundred years ago, there was another type known as the Malagasy Crowned Eagle. These equally impressive birds were found on the island country of Madagascar, but unfortunately, they went extinct. 

Scientists think they may have disappeared after humans first arrived there and hunted out a lot of the animals that the eagles preyed on. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Crowned Eagles mate for life?

Crowned Eagles are monogamous and mate for life. The pairs are highly territorial and only raise a new chick every two years because they care for the baby eagle for so long. 

Why is the Crowned Eagle endangered? 

Crowned Eagles are not officially classified as endangered, but are near threatened. Unfortunately, as with so many of the wonderful animals we share the planet with, Crowned Eagles are becoming increasingly threatened due to habitat loss and competition with humans for prey animals.  

How big is a Crowned Eagle?

Crowned Eagles are very similar in size to the American Bald Eagle. They can measure over 3 feet long and weigh over 10 pounds. They have a wingspan of about 6 feet. 

Final Thoughts

Crowned Eagles are one of the most awe-inspiring birds on the planet. These masters of the forest are fascinating animals that, sadly, are becoming more and more difficult to find due to the effects humans are having on their natural habitat. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed learning more about these enigmatic animals. Happy birdwatching! 

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