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Terathopius ecaudatus

Status: Near Threatened

Population Trend: Declining.

Other Names: Bateleur Eagle.

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Terathopius ecaudatus
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Distribution: Afrotropical/Palearctic. Occurs in most of sub-Saharan Africa from SENEGAMBIA east to southwestern SAUDI ARABIA, YEMEN, SUDAN, and ETHIOPIA, south to NAMIBIA and northern SOUTH AFRICA. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic.

Taxonomy: Kemp (1994) suggested that the Bateleur is probably most closely related to Circaetus, and Wink and Sauer-Gürth (2000) also found that this species and the Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus) form a monophyletic clade, based on nucleotide sequences in the cytochrome b gene. Even though they differ greatly in plumage patterns, they show similarities in food, feeding behavior, and breeding biology. Sibley and Monroe (1990) also proposed a relationship between these species, but the recent molecular study of Lerner and Mindell (2005), based on the molecular sequence from two mitochondrial genes and one nuclear intron, indicated a previously unsuspected close relationship of the Bateleur with the Philippine Eagle, Pithecophaga jefferyi.

Movements: Irruptive or local migrant, with juveniles dispersing from breeding areas (Bildstein 2006). Adults are mostly or completely sedentary, but there are large-scale movements of young birds, which may be nomadic or congregate in certain areas. Ringing recoveries of dispersing immatures have been made at distances of 285 km, 77 km, 54, and 30 km from their nests (Oatley et al. 1998). There may also be local movements in response to rainfall changes. more....

Habitat and Habits: Found in a wide variety of wooded savanna and woodland types, from the open, semi-arid Kalahari to well-developed, relatively mesic broad-leafed woodland (Barnes 2000). Absent from forested areas, steppe, and desert habitats. Spends a great deal of time soaring, cruising at low levels. Usually found singly or in pairs, but sometimes occurs in small groups, as, for example, near Choma, Zambia, where 21 were recorded together at a water area in 1973 (Dowsett et al. 2008). Perches in trees. more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds on small vertebrates, especially snakes, termites, and carrion, including large carcasses. About one-third of its prey items in Kruger National Park consisted of live prey, and the remainder was carrion, including many smaller items (Watson 1986). Among scavenging birds, Bateleurs typically find carcasses (including poisoned items) first. At larger carcasses, this species is subordinate to other scavenging birds. The coarse scutellation of the legs and feet is thought to be an adaptation for preying on snakes. This species regularly engages in piracy on other scavenging birds. more....

Breeding: Egg laying in South Africa and Zimbabwe begins in summer, mainly January-March, coincident with the rainy season (Steyn 1982, Watson 1986). The stick nest is rather small for the species and is placed in the fork of a tree, usually below the canopy. Tall Acacia and Diospyros mespiloformis trees along watercourses are preferred breeding sites (Watson 1988, Ash and Miskell 1998). Clutch size is one white, unmarked egg. The incubation period lasts about 55 days, and the nestling period can take anywhere from 101 to 194 days, both long for an eagle this size. Both male and female share incubation, brooding, and feeding of the nestling. This species is said to be particularly shy at active nests and subject to disturbance. more....

Conservation: Widespread in appropriate habitat in sub-Saharan Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, but has undergone a severe range contraction in many areas in response to habitat loss, persecution (mostly poisoning from baits put out for jackals), and drowning in farm reservoirs (Simmons 1997, 2005). In southern Africa, ringing recoveries suggest that birds wandering out of protected areas are particularly vulnerable to these factors (Oatley et al. 1988), and Watson and Maritz (2000) reported that Bateleur populations are stable in the large national parks (Kruger and Kalahari Gemsbok) in South Africa, but there was a virtual 100% decline outside these areas from the 1940s to the 1980s. The species also suffers locally from a lack of carrion, one of its principal food sources. In South Africa, some are trapped for feathers, which are used by traditional healers (Steyn 1982). The Bateleur is regarded as Threatened, Vulnerable, or even Endangered in many countries in its range. It was recently updated from Least Concern to Near Threatened by BirdLife International. more....

Population Estimates: Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2001) estimated the global population (defined as the number of adults and immatures at the start of the breeding season) at more than 100,000 individuals, but it is much lower now. BirdLife International (2009) estimated the total population of mature birds at 10,000 to 100,000 individuals. The total regional population for southern Africa, including Swaziland, is now probably less than 700 pairs (Barnes 2000). From 1980 to 2000, there was an estimated 75% decline in total numbers in southern Africa (Watson and Maritz 2000). more....

Important References: 
Barnes, K.N. 2000. Bateleur Terathopius ecaudatus. Pp. 86-88 in K.N.
  Barnes (ed.), The Eskom Red Data Book of birds of South Africa, Lesotho and
  Swaziland. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg.
Brown, L.H., and T.J. Cade. 1972. Age classes and population dynamics of
  the Bateleur and African Fish Eagle. Ostrich 43:1-16.
Brown, L.H. 1982. Genus Terathopius (Bateleur Eagle). Pp. 347-350 in L.H.
  Brown, E.K. Urban, and K. Newman (eds.), The birds of Africa. Vol. 1.
  Academic Press, London.
Chiweshe, N.C.. 2000. Status and diet of the Bateleur Eagle in the Matobo
  Hills. Honeyguide 46:130-133.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Kemp, A.C. 1994. Bateleur. P. 132 in del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott, and J.
  Sargatal (eds). Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New World vultures
  to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona,Spain.
Lerner, H.R., and D.P. Mindell. 2005. Phylogeny of eagles, Old World
  vultures, and other Accipitridae based on nuclear and mitochondrial DNA.
  Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 37:327-346.
Simmons, R.E. 1997. Bateleur. Pp. 202-203 in J.A. Harrison et al. (eds.),
  The atlas of South African birds. Volume 1: Non-passerines. BirdLife South
  Africa and Avian Demography Unit, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Simmons, R.E. 2005. Bateleur Terathopius ecaudatus. Pp. 498-500 in P.A.R.
  Hockey, W.R.J. Dean, and P.G. Ryan (eds.), Roberts Birds of Southern Africa.
  7th ed. Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town, South
Steyn, P. 1980. Breeding and food of the Bateleur in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia).
  Ostrich 51:168-178.
Steyn, P. 1982. Birds of prey of southern Africa: their identification and
  life histories. David Phillip, Cape Town, South Africa.
Watson, R.T. 1986. Biology, ecology and population dynamics of the
  Bateleur. Ph.D. dissertation, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.
Watson, R.T. 1990. Breeding biology of the Bateleur. Ostrich 61:13-23.

Sites of Interest:
Bateleur photos.

Hancock, Pete
Kendall, Corinne
Middleton, Angus
Steyn, Peter
Watson, Rick

Last modified: 5/31/2012

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2014. Species account: Bateleur Terathopius ecaudatus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 17 Apr. 2014

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