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The African hawk-eagle

31 October 2013



Scientific Name : Aquila spilogaster

Weight (Male) : 1.3 kg

Weight (Female) : ± 1.6 kg

Wingspan : ± 1.5 m

Nests : Used repeatedly for at least 18 years.

Eggs : Hatch after 42 days.

There is actually little known with which to distinguish between hawks and eagles despite the general use of these and related terms. Hawks and eagles are raptors of the family Accipitridae of the Order Accipitriformes, the latter which also includes the vultures, buzzards, falcons and a host of other types of raptor. All the raptors of this group are active by day (diurnal) in contrast with raptors such as owls who are active at night (nocturnal). Hawks and eagles all have wide wings; hooked bills; and large, strong and sharp claws. Yet they have a variable appearance. The real differences between a hawk and an eagle are in size, shape, colour and flying mode.

The eagles are large, strongly-built raptors with a large, sharp hooks on the upper part of the bill. The hawks, on the other hand, are raptors of medium size which mainly occur in bushveld areas where they are adapted to fly between the trees by making sharp turns. There is considerable confusion in the common names of raptors, with many types of eagle, osprey, hawk, falcon and other types.

The African hawk-eagle Aquila spilogaster has an even more confusing common name. The name Aquila means eagle in Latin (aquila) while spilogaster is Latin for a spotted underside. This raptor was first named scientifically as Spizaëtus spilogaster by Du Bus de Gesignies=Bonaparte in 1850 based on a specimen from Ethiopia. It occurs commonly in the northern savannas (bushveld) with large trees in South Africa and its distribution stretches into north-eastern Africa... (Become a subscriber for more)


Hockey, P A R, W R J Dean and P G Ryan (Eds) 2005. Roberts – birds of southern Africa, seventh edition. Cape Town: The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, pp 533 - 534.

artikel by: Prof J du P Bothma


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