Day of Raptor sightings

We were fortunate to see a couple of birds of prey yesterday Martial Eagle, Steppe Buzzard and a Black-shouldered Kite

Birds of prey, also known as raptors, hunt and feed on other animals. The term "raptor" is derived from the Latin word rapere (meaning to seize or take by force).

Martial Eagle photographed on a pylon next to the Kaallaagtespruit close to Honey Lodge

Polemaetus bellicosus (Martial eagle) 

Breëkoparend [Afrikaans]; Ukhozi (generic term for eagle) [Xhosa]; isiHuhwa (also applied to African crowned eagle)

Distrubution and habitat in Southern Africa, it is widespread but uncommon, generally preferring flat, open woodland, such as savanna, forest edges and drainage woodland in shrubland. It may move into open farmland with stands of trees.

They are the largest of the African eagles and incredibly powerful, capable of knocking an adult man off his feet. They reputedly have enough power in one foot to break a man's arm. The largest eagle in Africa, the Martial eagle weighs in at almost 14 pounds (6.5 Kg.) and has a wingspan of about 6 feet 4 inches. It is 32 inches long.

It spends much of its time on the wing, and is usually seen soaring about hill slopes, often at a very great height rendering it almost invisible to the naked eye. Early in the morning before it takes to the wing for the day, or in the evening prior to roosting it can be seen perched in trees. It will soar for hours on updraughts without hunting, and with a full crop, but it does most of its hunting from the soar also, killing or attacking by a long slanting stoop at great speed, or a gentle descent into an opening in the bush, the speed of the descent being controlled by the angle at which the wings are held above the back. It may kill from a perch, but does so seldom, and most of its kills are surprised in the open by the speed of the eagle's attack from a distance.

A pair of Martial Eagles may have a home range of anything up to 50 square miles, and they wander about over most of it. They often hunt for several days in one area and then move on to another, since complaints of kills are often voiced for several days in succession in the same area. It is much shier than the other big eagles of Africa, and generally keeps away from man. Although not migratory in the strict sense it makes local movements involving flights of several hundred miles, and a pair may not habitually be found near their breeding locality. It is by habit a hunter of game-birds and small mammals out in the open, but also preys upon man's domestic animals, though it certainly kills much less than it is often accused of killing. Probably on balance it is a beneficial bird to man. (Source :

The Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus axillaris) A common bird of prey in South Africa, the Black-shouldered Kite is a small, grey and white raptor with a black shoulder. The upperparts are bluish grey, with black wing coverts which appear as a distinctive, black shoulder patch. We took this photo also close to the Kaallaagtespruit.

The Steppe Buzzard is known in Afrikaans as Bruinjakkalsvoel.

The Steppe Buzzard has a height of 50 cms and weighs around 640 gms. The head is coloured brown while the bill is coloured grey. The Buteo vulpinus has a brown coloured throat, yellow legs and a brown, black coloured back. The eyes are brown.

This bird forages for food on the ground.

This bird hunts for small reptiles such as lizards, geckos and bush snakes. The Steppe Buzzard strikes poisonous snakes on the head with one fatal blow which kills the snake instantly. There have been cases were this bird has been killed by a snake while hunting. Some birds have been blinded by Cobra venom.

The Steppe Buzzard is a monogamous bird which means that the bird finds and breeds with one partner for the rest of its life. (Source :

This sighting of the Steppe Buzard was also in the Kaallaagtespruit section.


We were also very lucky to see a Black-chested Snake Eagle pair late during 2014 at Xombana.