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the web of life in southern Africa

Aquila rapax (Tawny eagle) 

Roofarend [Afrikaans]; Ukhozi (generic term for eagle) [Xhosa]; Ngongo (also applied to Lesser spotted eagle) [Kwangali]; Ntsu (also applied to Bearded vulture) [South Sotho]; Ntshukbkb [North Sotho]; Gondo (generic name for eagle) [Shona]; Lusoti (generic for eagles) [Swazi]; Ghama (generic term for eagle) [Tsonga]; Ntsu, Ntswi (generic terms for eagles) [Tswana]; Afrikaanse steppearend [Dutch]; Aigle ravisseur [French]; Raubadler [German]; guia-fulva [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Falconiformes > Family: Accipitridae > Genus: Aquila

Aquila rapax (Tawny eagle)  Aquila rapax (Tawny eagle) 

Tawny eagle (pale form). [photo Johann du Preez ]

Tawny eagle, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Arno Meintjes ].
Aquila rapax (Tawny eagle) 
T awny eagle (pale form), Etosha National Park, Namibia. [photo Trevor Hardaker ]

Distribution and habitat

Occupies much of sub-Saharan Africa excluding the lowland forests of the DRC and surrounding countries. It generally prefers lightly-wooded savanna, but it also occurs Nama Karoo and treeless grasslands, provided that there are pylons and alien trees to nest in.

Distribution of Tawny eagle in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project ( Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

Resident and locally nomadic, moving in search of local abundances of food such as Red-billed quelea colonies.


Predator, pirate and scavenger, feeding on a wide variety of animals. It usually hunts from a perch, swooping down to catch a bird in flight or pounce on prey on the ground. It also regularly scavenges roadkills, and sometimes competes with vultures and Marabou storks at carcasses. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Monogamous, territorial solitary nester, performing a courtship display in which the breeding pair circle together, in shallow undulating flight.
  • The nest is a platform of sticks, lined with green leaves, grass and litter, such as paper and plastic bags. It is typically placed on top of a large tree, especially a large Acacia, or alternatively on a Red-billed buffalo-weaver colony or on the top-most cross-bar of a pylon. It also takes over the nests of other birds, including storks and vultures.
  • Egg-laying season is from March-September, peaking from April-June.
  • It lays 1-3 eggs, which are mainly incubated by the female for about 39-44 days.
  • For the first 10 days of the chicks' lives, they are brooded almost constantly by the female. At this early stage, the male provides most of the food, although later in the nestling period the female also contributes. The chicks take their first flight at about 11-12 weeks old, still returning the nest to be fed for a further six weeks before becoming fully independent. 


Not threatened globally, although its range in southern Africa has contracted sharply, due to persecution; it is listed as locally Endangered in Namibia.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.