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2012-02-13
Disturbing News - decline in the distribution of the majestic Martial Eagle.


In SABAP 1 published in 1997, Andre Boshoff wrote: "Although numbers have decreased locally in many areas, often dramatically, the Martial Eagle is still widespread in southern Africa ... The conservation status provides cause for concern ... The main causes [of the decrease] are direct persecution (shooting and trapping) by small-stock farmers, indirect persecution by poisoning, drowning in sheer-walled reservoirs, reduction of natural prey through habitat alteration and degradation, and electrocution on electricity pylons."

Unfortunately this  process seems to have been ongoing between SABAP1 and SABAP2.

SABAP 2 shows that the majestic Martial Eagle are not doing well throughout the Southern African region.

The Martial Eagle -  Polemaetus bellicosus - is the largest of all African eagles. It can be found in all sub-Saharan Africa, they are most common in the more southerly areas such as Kenya, Botswana and South Africa. They are more easily seen in protected areas and large parks wherever the food is abundant and the environment is suitable. It prefers open savannah and semi desert regions.

Description

Adults have dark brown upperparts, head and upper chest. The body underparts are white spotted with black. The underwing coverts are brown, with pale flight feathers, also streaked with black. The female is larger and more spotted than the male. The immature is paler above and has white underparts. It reaches adult plumage in its seventh year.

Call

A loud call,  'klee-klee-klee-kloeee-kloeee-kuleee'.

Food

The diet of the Martial Eagle varies greatly with prey availability and can be dictated largely by opportunity. Diet consists of Birds, Reptiles, Mammals such as Hares, Mongooses, Hyraxes and small Antelope.

The Martial Eagle hunts mostly in flight, circling high above its territory, and stooping sharply to catch its prey by surprise.

Breeding

The female builds the nest which is a huge construction and is used year after year. They have a slow breeding rate, laying at most one egg every two years. The egg-laying season is from February to August, peaking from April to June. The egg is incubated for 45 days. The chick is brooded almost constantly by the female for 2-3 weeks and the chick fledges at about 100 days. Beyond this, despite becoming increasingly independent, juvenile birds will remain close to the nest for another 6 months.

Conservation Status – Near Threatened

This species is currently experiencing a major decline in numbers, due to the over killing from hunters. Martial Eagle suffers from persecution through shooting and poisoning, but also from indirect threats, such as collision with power-lines. Another hazard is caused by steep sided farm reservoirs, in which many birds drown. In South Africa it may have lost 20% of its population in the last three generations. In many areas where they come into contact with humans, eagle populations have decreased greatly through persecution, because they are blamed for killing livestock. In reality, domestic animals constitute only a small proportion of their diet, whereas the presence of eagles is a sure sign of a healthy environment. The preservation of this species depends on education of farmers, and the direct protection of nesting sites.


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