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Tawny Eagle
Aquila rapax

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Declining.

Other Names: Eurasian Tawny Eagle (vindhiana); Indian Tawny Eagle (vindhiana).

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Aquila rapax
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Distribution: Afrotropical/Indomalayan/Palearctic. Three disjunct populations, including one in northwestern Africa (MOROCCO and possibly ALGERIA), another from southwest MAURITANIA, SENEGAMBIA, and NIGER east through southern CHAD and southern SUDAN to ETHIOPIA, SOMALIA, and southwestern ARABIA, south through most of sub-Saharan Africa to northern SOUTH AFRICA, and a third in southeastern IRAN east to PAKISTAN, INDIA, and NEPAL, south through most of the Indian subcontinent and possibly western MYANMAR. more....

Subspecies: 3 races. A. r. belisarius: MOROCCO and ALGERIA; southern Arabia and tropical Africa south to northern ZAIRE and northern KENYA; A. r. rapax: Southern KENYA and southern ZAIRE south to SOUTH AFRICA and west to ANGOLA and NAMIBIA; A. r. vindhiana: PAKISTAN, INDIA, and southern NEPAL; possibly also MYANMAR. more....

Taxonomy: Formerly merged with A. nipalensis by Vaurie (1965), Brown and Amadon (1968), and Stresemann and Amadon (1979), but Brooke et al. (1972) and Clark (1992) argued against this treatment, based on morphological, behavioral, and ecological differences between the two taxa. This view was supported by the molecular phylogenetic analysis by Helbig et al. (2005), who found no evidence that they are even sister species. The study of Lerner and Mindell (2005), based on the molecular sequences of one nuclear and two mitochondrial genes, showed that this species forms a monophyletic group with A. heliaca (and presumably also A. adalberti) and A. nipalensis, and they recommended that a taxonomic revision be undertaken to show the distinctness of this group from other Aquila eagles.

Movements: Irruptive or local migrant, with juveniles dispersing from breeding areas (Bildstein 2006). In southern Africa, adults are sedentary, and immatures are probably somwhat nomadic (Steyn 1982). Ringed chicks have been recovered up to 267 km from the nest less than a year after hatching (Tarboton 1990). There are possible southward movements in the dry season in West Africa (Borrow and Demey 2001). In Morocco, it is largely sedentary, but some wander outside of the known breeding range (Thévenot et al. 2003). Rasmussen and Anderton (2005) questioned records from Southeast Asia, noting that the breeding population on the Indian subcontinent is non-migratory. more....

Habitat and Habits: Occupies most habitats, except for true desert and dense forest (Kemp and Kemp 1998). Most common in open wooded (acacia) savanna and steppe and less so in denser woodland. Common in large game and cattle areas (Dowsett et al. 2008). Spends much time perching on treetops, often in pairs. On the Indian subcontinent, it roosts colonially in the non-breeding season (Rasmussen and Anderton 2005). more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Tawny Eagles are very opportunistic in their dietary preferences, feeding on a broad array of small mammals, birds (especially gamebirds), reptiles, insects (including termites), and carrion of any kind. They are regularly seen feeding on road kills, and they also pirate prey from other predators, especially the Bateleur (Watson and Watson 1987). They hunt from a perch, on the wing, occasionally on foot, and they aggregate around grass fires. These are powerful birds, and the most common prey, Kirk's Dikdik, in Kenya is more than twice as heavy as a Tawny Eagle (Smeenk 1974). more....

Breeding: Builds a large, flat stick nest lined with grasses or green leaves, usually placed in the top of a thorn tree. In naturally treeless areas like the Karoo Desert, it nests on pylons and alien tree species. Clutch size is 2 eggs. The second chick seldom survives, as the result of cainism. In Africa, the incubation and nestling periods are 42 days and 11-12 weeks, respectively. Pairs tend to re-use the same nest in successive years, or use an alternate nest nearby. more....

Conservation: Widespread breeding resident throughout northern sub-Saharan Africa, northeastern Africa, and on the Indian subcontinent, formerly common in most of its range, but suffering recent precipitous declines in some areas. In southern Africa, population losses have been caused mostly by poisoning, both deliberate and inadvertent, shooting, and drowning in sheer-walled reservoirs (Barnes 2000). Some birds are also killed by vehicles when scavenging carrion on roads (Oatley et al. 1998). It is still categorized as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International, but is now largely absent in West Africa and regarded as Threatened throughout southern Africa, hence its probably should be categorized as Near Threatened or even Vulnerable. 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) in the range of 100,101 to 1,000,000 individuals. They thought that the population of vindhiana on the Indian subcontinent was likely to be in five figures. BirdLife International (2009) estimated the number of mature birds at 100,000 individuals, but noted that the supporting data for this estimate were poor. It was estimated that there are 5,000 pairs in southern Africa in the late 1990s (Simmons 1997, Barnes 2000), but there are probably significantly fewer now. more....

Important References: 
Barnes, K.N. 2000. Tawny Eagle Aquila rapax. Pp. 81-83 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., E.K. Urban, and K. Newman. 1982. The birds of Africa. Vol. 1.
  Academic Press, London.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Kemp, A.C. 1994. Tawny Eagle. Pp. 193-194 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.
Naoroji, R. 2006. Birds of prey of the Indian subcontinent. Christopher
  Helm, London.
Simmons, R.E. 1997. Tawny Eagle. Pp. 178-179 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. Tawny Eagle Aquila rapax. Pp. 529-530 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. 1982. Birds of prey of southern Africa: their identification and
  life histories. David Phillip, Cape Town, South Africa.

Sites of Interest:
Tawny Eagle photos.

BT, Sowmithri
Deacon, Neil
Kendall, Corinne
Kothe, Sudhanshu
Simmons, Rob
Soni, Hiren
Steyn, Peter
Vyas, Virag

Last modified: 4/6/2011

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2022. Species account: Tawny Eagle Aquila rapax. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 27 Jan. 2022

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