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A Quick Guide to Distinguish between our Eagle Species at Pamuzinda

Welcome, this is our quick guide to help you distinguish between the eagle species at Pamuzinda Safari Lodge. We are lucky here at Pamuzinda, to have two different large Eagle species. The majestic birds have nested here for several years. For their size alone they are very photographic. Fortunately, both have chosen to nest in areas where a regular presence of human beings has led to them being more tolerant of the species Homo sapiens than would be most of their counterparts.

Africa Fish Eagle at Pamuzinda Safari Lodge

The first is the African Fish Eagle – Haliaeetus vocifer (“Hungwe” in the local Shona language). This eagle has a striking brown and white plumage. The fish eagle is famous for that hauntingly evocative call, with which a pair keep in touch. Once heard, the call is never forgotten. Our pair of eagles nest in a large tree directly opposite the outside restaurant deck at the lodge. These two are a common sight during daylight hours.

Fish Eagle Diet

There is a plentiful supply of various fish species in the river. Should the opportunity arise, the African Fish Eagle can supplement this food supply with occasional small mammals, waterbirds, reptiles and amphibians. African Fish Eagle – Haliaeetus vocifer is officially listed as of “least concern” meaning the population is stable. Although not technically an endangered species, I have never seen accumulations of them. However, their American cousins, the Bald Eagles sometimes gather in great numbers. Maybe they are more territorially conscious and guard their food supply against would-be intruders accordingly.

Mating pair ensures that the Eagle Species at Pamuzinda will continue to thrive
A Pair of African Fish Eagles

The African Fish Eagle is distributed throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa. Wikipedia gives its estimated numbers in the region of 300,000. The eagles breed in the dry season when water levels are low. Catching fish for a hungry brood of normally two to three young is easier during the dry season.

Our pair successfully raised two chicks this year (2018). The two eaglets left the nest on the 1st of November. They are still finding their wings. Unlike the graceful descents of their parents, they tend to come down to earth by a process known as “whiffling”. This is whereby they fold their wings in and come down in a fairly ungainly series of zig-zag movements.

Martial Eagle at Pamuzinda Safari Lodge

The second species is the impressive Martial Eagle – Polemaetus bellicosus – one of the largest African Eagles.

With a wingspan of over 6 feet, the Martial eagle can lift prey the size of a domestic lamb. Unlike most Eagles, it hunts in a Falcon-like fashion stooping from great height to initially stun its prey with the sheer impetus of the impact. Its size and bold nature means that its potential menu is vast and all manner of small to medium mammals, reptiles and virtually any size of bird are on its wishlist. Juveniles tend to be much paler than adults and females can be up to 50% heavier than males. It has a low erectile crest though in appearance it is almost recumbent.

Adult Male martial eagle with neck showing that it has just had lunch at Pamuzinda Safari Lodge
Adult Male Martial Eagle at Pamuzinda Safari Lodge

The pair I am discussing nest in the heart of the park in woodland, their preferred nesting habitat, whilst within easy reach of a more open savannah-type terrain, their preferred hunting territory. Fortunately, their nest site is adjacent to several game drive tracks and so they have, over the years, become accustomed to the passing vehicles despite a nature that normally prefers to be away from human intrusion.

Conserving Martial Eagle Species at Pamuzinda and Beyond

Their official status listing is “vulnerable” which means that unless circumstances causing its decline are halted then it is likely to move vulnerable to extinction. Unfortunately one of the major factors in its significant and recent decline across most of its range is persecution by man. In farming areas, it is seen as a threat to livestock and hunted and poisoned accordingly. In keeping with many other raptors it will often feed on carrion or carcasses dead for some other reason and this, when seen by irate farmers, accentuates the mistaken belief that it is guilty of killing animals far larger than it could, in all sensibility, be capable of thus leading to its increasing persecution.

As a dominant species within the world wide web of wildlife, we humans have much to be held accountable for!

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A Quick Guide to Distinguish between our Eagle Species at Pamuzinda

A Quick Guide to Distinguish between our Eagle Species at Pamuzinda
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