Saturday, 2 February 2013

Bateleur

order : Falconiformes      Genus & Species : Accipitridae     Family : Terathopius ecaudatus

Whether hurtling down upon a live victim, descending to feed on carrion, or ambushing other scavengers and stealing their kill, the bateleur is a master opportunist. With a powerful and murderously hooked bill shaped for hacking into its victims, the bateleur makes quick work of prey, whether dead or alive. They found across much of Africa south of the Sahara Desert, but absent from Republic of South Africa, parts of Somalia and the forested regions around the equator. 

Habitat : The bateleur occurs in woodland and savannah dotted with trees that provide perches and nesting sites. It occasionally ranges into semi-desert thornbush and open grassland. In West Africa it migrates to the fringes of the Sahara during the rainy season. It usually avoids dense forest regions and mountains, but the bateleur has nested at more than 13,200' in Ethiopia. 
Food & Hunting : The opportunistic bateleur attacks anything from grasshoppers to small species of antelope. Groups of up to 50 juveniles gather to feast on winged termites emerging from their nests, and adults hunt birds as big as guineafowl.This eagle also takes carrion and even snatches carcasses from vultures and other scavengers in bold, piratical attacks. Small mammals are probably the bateleur’s favorite prey, which it hunts on the wing from a height of 160' or so. Gliding back and forth, it watches for any movement that could betray a grass rat, a dik-dik or a gazelle fawn. On spotting a victim, it corkscrews down in a spiral, slamming into its target with its talons. It then tears the carcass with its sharp and powerful bill. 
Behavior : The long wings and short tail of the bateleur are an adaptation for soaring and gliding. Lacking an effective rudder, the bateleur turns by banking from side to side. It stays aloft for most of the day, soaring in circles on thermals (warm, rising air currents) with its wingtips splayed to reduce air turbulence. Between thermals the eagle glides fast and straight with its wingtips swept back. Adults usually remain in large territories, but nomadic juveniles wander more widely, often covering 180 miles or more a day. 
Breeding : The bateleur breeds all year, but in East Africa, mating peaks in February and March. During courtship, partners dive and roll; the female flies upside down and presents her talons to the male as he swoops past. The cup-shaped nest is built in a large, shady tree; it is repaired each year. The female lays a single white egg, occasionally dotted with a few red speckles, and takes on most of the eight-week incubation — the longest of any African eagle species. Both parents rear the chick, and a juvenile reared the previous season often brings food for its sibling. 


Bill : With its heavily hooked upper mandible, the bill is ideal for plucking feathers and stripping flesh. 
Eyes : With its exceptional vision, the bateleur can pinpoint a mouse in grass from more than 160' above ground. 
Plumage : A chestnut back contrasts with a black body; the wings are graytan. The female has white flashes on her wing uppersides. Juveniles are brown, with blue-green facial skin and legs. 
Wings : Long, deep wings enable the bird to glide huge distances at speeds of up to 50 mph. 
Talons : Short, sharp and extremely powerful talons exert enough grip to squeeze the life out of a newborn antelope. 
In Flight : In flight, with feet protruding beyond a “sawedoff” tail, the long-winged bateleur won’t be confused with any other African eagle. 


Weight : 4.5–6.5 lbs. 
Length : 32-34"
Wingspan : 5.5-6'
Sexual Maturity : 5-6 years
Breeding Season : All year


Bateleur is a French word meaning “circus performer.” It refers to the eagle’s acrobatic displays and habit of rocking, like a tightrope walker, inflight.