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on Aug 16, 2019

Name of species: Bateleur
Scientific Name: Terathopius ecaudatus
Weight: Male: 2.25kg - Female: 2.25kg
Shoulder Height: Male: 50-70cm - Female: 50-70cm
Wingspan: 1.8m
General Habitat: This is a common resident species of the open savanna country in Sub-Saharan Africa. Open and closed canopy woodland, including arid acacia savanna.
Diet: Diurnal Hunter and scavenger. Mainly small mammals, birds and reptiles and will scavenge carrion

01Louise Murray Bateleur 01042019 1 Final

Arguably one of the most stunning birds of prey you can find out here at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve. The Bateleur Eagle is the most famous of the snake eagles. A colourful bird with a glossy black head and neck. A chestnut, mantle, back, rump and tail. A bare pinkish-red facial skin, legs and feet are also red. In flight the male has more black feathers under their wings and females have more white with a thin black outline.

Juvenile Bateleurs appear browner in colour with a pale blue-grey facial skin and it can take between 7-8 years for them to fully lose this plumage and get its adult colouration.

Bateleur is French for 'tightrope-walker'. This name was probably chosen because of its distinctive aerial acrobatics. You can notice its erratic and unstable manner of flying; this movement mimics the actions a tight-rope walker would make to keep his/her balance. The Bateleur’s scientific name, Terathopius ecaudatus, when translated literally from both Latin and Greek, means "marvellous face, no tail".

Not a bird you can often see perched and still, Bateleurs are known to spend between 8-9 hours in the skies looking for food and can cover ± 300 miles. Their prey is mostly small mammals and birds and will even occasionally be seen at a kill site to scavenge on the carrion.

Bateleurs pair for life and may use the same nest for many years. The female lays a single egg. Mom will stay and incubate the egg while dad will be responsible for bringing food and sticks for the nest. After an incubation period of 52-59 days, the baby Bateleur Eagle hatches. After 110 days, the hatchling will leave the nest, but will continue to receive food from its parents for another 100 days. Only 2% of chicks make it to adulthood.

The Bateleur is unfortunately in severe decline and in South Africa is now seldom seen outside of the game reserves of the Kalahari and those in the northern part of the country. At Sabi Sabi we are still privileged to be able to view this endangered species in the wild, hunting, breeding and surviving in its pristine bushveld habitat.

My Memorable Sighting

I love to see this stunning bird of prey, in the sky or perched. I haven’t had much of a wow moment with a Bateleur, but I do remember driving along on safari and this really large bird had swooped down fast onto the ground not far from me, I stopped the vehicle and had a glance to notice this impressive big bird of prey (on the ground seemingly a lot bigger) who was on the hunt and had missed a little meal. He did a little walk around before he gracefully took to the sky again.

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  • Blog by Louise Murray (Bush Lodge Ranger)
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