Tawny eagle

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Tawny eagle
From Etosha National Park
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Accipitriformes
Family: Accipitridae
Genus: Aquila
A. rapax
Binomial name
Aquila rapax
(Temminck, 1828)
AquilaRapaxIUCNver2019 1.png
Range of A. rapax     Resident

Aquila rapax rapax

The tawny eagle (Aquila rapax) is a large bird of prey. Like all eagles, it belongs to the family Accipitridae. It was once considered to be closely related to the migratory steppe eagle, Aquila nipalensis, and the two forms have previously been treated as conspecific. They were split based on pronounced differences in morphology and anatomy;[2][3][4] two molecular studies, each based on a very small number of genes, indicate that the species are distinct, but disagree over how closely related they are.[5]

It breeds in most of Africa, both north and south of the Sahara Desert, and across tropical southwestern Asia to India. It is a resident breeder which lays one to three eggs in a stick nest in a tree, crag, or on the ground. Throughout its range, it favours open dry habitats such as semideserts, deserts steppes, or savannah plains.


Close-up showing gape extending only to below the middle of the eye

This is a large eagle, although it is one of the smaller species in the genus Aquila. It is 60–75 cm (24–30 in) in length and has a wingspan of 159–190 cm (63–75 in). Weight can range from 1.6 to 3 kg (3.5 to 6.6 lb).[6][7] It has tawny upper parts and blackish flight feathers and tail. The lower back is very pale. This species is smaller and paler than the steppe eagle, and it does not share that species' pale throat. Immature birds show less contrast than adults, but both show a range of variation in plumage colour.


The tawny eagle's diet is largely fresh carrion of all kinds, but it kills small mammals up to the size of a greater kudu, reptiles up to the size of an African python, and birds.[7] It also steals food from other raptors. The call of the tawny eagle is a crow-like barking, but it is rather a silent bird except in display.


On the 20th of June 2019, the carcasses of 468 white-backed vultures, 17 white-headed vultures, 28 hooded vultures, 14 lappet-faced vultures and 10 cape vultures, altogether 537 vultures, besides 2 eagles, were found in northern Botswana. It is suspected that they died after eating the carcasses of 3 elephants that were poisoned by poachers, possibly to avoid detection by the birds, which help rangers to track poaching activity by circling above where there are dead animals.[8][9][10][11]



  1. ^ BirdLife International (2018). "Aquila rapax". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2018.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 17 December 2018.
  2. ^ Clark, W. S. (1992), The taxonomy of Steppe and Tawny Eagles, with criteria for separation of museum specimens and live eagles, 112, Bull. B.O.C., pp. 150–157
  3. ^ Olson, Storrs L. (1994), Cranial osteology of Tawny and Steppe Eagles Aquila rapax and A. nipalensis, 114, Bull. B.O.C., pp. 264–267
  4. ^ Sangster, George; Knox, Alan G.; Helbig, Andreas J.; Parkin, David T. (2002), Taxonomic recommendations for European birds, 144 (1), Ibis, pp. 153–159, doi:10.1046/j.0019-1019.2001.00026.x PDF fulltext
  5. ^ Global Raptors
  6. ^ James Ferguson-Lees; Christie; Franklin; Mead; Burton (2001), Raptors of the World, Houghton-Mifflin, ISBN 0-618-12762-3
  7. ^ a b Tawny eagle (Aquilla rapax), ARKive, 2011, archived from the original on 2018-02-01
  8. ^ "Over 500 Rare Vultures Die After Eating Poisoned Elephants In Botswana". Agence France-Press. NDTV. 2019-06-21. Retrieved 2019-06-28.
  9. ^ Hurworth, Ella (2019-06-24). "More than 500 endangered vultures die after eating poisoned elephant carcasses". CNN. Retrieved 2019-06-28.
  10. ^ Solly, Meilan (2019-06-24). "Poachers' Poison Kills 530 Endangered Vultures in Botswana". Smithsonian. Retrieved 2019-06-28.
  11. ^ Ngounou, Boris (2019-06-27). "BOTSWANA: Over 500 vultures found dead after massive poisoning". Afrik21. Retrieved 2019-06-28.

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