The Eagles Of West Africa (How To Recognize Them)

The super eagles of Nigeria are the most popular eagles in West Africa. The younger generation thus question whether there are any of these legendary birds on the continent. There are. The problem is that habitat destruction makes it difficult for these birds to thrive, and as a result, people have to look a lot harder to see something that was once abundant.

Another problem is that Africans are quite fetish; and so they erroneously associate witchcraft to birds, especially big birds which they may not understand. As a result of this, they actively go on campaigns to destroy these “witch birds,” further driving them into extinction.

They have not completely succeeded in making all the birds extinct; eagles are very hardy birds, and still survive despite the odds. Here are some of those still in existence.

Are There Eagles In West Africa?

West Africa is only a small region on the continent. most eagles that may be found there are migrating species; this means they live in a broader area – sometimes staying in West Africa, and other times staying in other parts of the continent or the world.

Nevertheless, the answer is yes, there are several eagle species in West Africa. most species of eagles do not venture into urban areas; they feed on small mammals, and have to cover wide areas of open ground to look for them.

They also need areas with ledges or tall trees to perch, from which they can have a vantage view of their surroundings. people who want to see eagles will have to go to the hinterland; perhaps to game reserves where the abundance of prey will likely make them available.

African Eagles List

African Hawk Eagle

If you have ever seen a display in which a smaller bird aggressively chases a bigger bird through the skies, then you have likely seen an African Hawk Eagle. This is a bird that is present in most of west Africa; starting from Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, eastern Guinea, some parts of Sierra Leone, Ghana, Togo and Benin, and then the north-central and southern parts of Nigeria.

It largely prefers dry areas, but with flat lands dotted with trees. It needs the trees as perches from which to observe its surroundings. It obtains most of its food from the ground.

The African Hawk Eagle is a small to mid-sized bird; it averages 55 to 68 cm (22 to 27 in), although females are usually bigger. It feeds on rats, squirrels, small birds, chickens and of course lizards.

Crowned Eagle

The Crowned Eagle is the exact opposite of the African Hawk Eagle in many respects; it prefers heavily wooded areas. It is also different from the African Hawk Eagle because of its size; this eagle measures 80 to 99 cm (31 to 39 in) in length which is roughly double the size of the African Hawk Eagle.

Sometimes it chooses impenetrable forests as its domain; including forests with fast flowing rivers, moats, or swamps which are like added protection. For this reason, it is very difficult to see this eagle even though it thrives in Africa.

Some places where the Crowned Eagle can be found in Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania,  South Africa, Senegal, The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Guinea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and  Angola. This species is known to exist in Nigeria, Ghana, Benin and Ivory Coast, but it is quite rare in these places, probably because the breeding pairs are not well established in these areas.

Crowned Eagles can be recognized by the feather tufts on their heads which form a crown. They can also be recognized in flight by the boxy appearance of its feathers. Its legs are also heavily feathered; looking like it is wearing boots.

Verreaux Eagle-Owl

Verreaux Eagle-Owl is a very distinctive eagle in that it looks like an owl. It is light brown in colour; giving it the name Milky Eagle Owl. It is also known as the Giant Eagle Owl; because it is in fact a giant.

This is a big bird; it measures from 58 to 66 cm (23 to 26 in), and has a normal wingspan of around 140 cm (4 ft 7 in). The biggest recorded specimen of this bird is a wingspan of 164 cm (5 ft 5 in).

This huge bird can be found in most of West Africa; The Gambia, Senegal, Guinea and Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Mali. It is not restricted to West Africa; the bird also occurs in the Central African Republic, democratic republic of Congo, Sudan, Somalia, Namibia and South Africa.

Wahlberg’s Eagle

The Wahlberg’s Eagle is probably the most popular eagle in West Africa; it is distinctive because of its brown colour, and the fact that it loves to circle the skies in the mornings, especially towards midday.

It circles the skies in search of prey which it likes to snatch on the ground. It ranges over large areas in search of prey; it can be found in Nigeria, Benin republic, Senegal, Mali, Gambia, and Ivory Coast.

However, it is a migrant species which spends only its dry season in West Africa. It can be found in the places above during the months of October, November, December, January, February, March. But from March to April, it starts moving to the southern part of the continent where it stays till November, December, or even march the following year.

This is a medium sized bird; it typically measures 53–61 cm (21–24 in) in length; which means it stands around 2 feet tall. It is therefore the size of a Canadian goose, a capybara, or a West African dwarf goat. However, it often has a wingspan of 130–146 cm (51–57 in).

Martial Eagle

The Martial Eagle is one of the biggest eagles in Africa; it is a truly formidable predator and reigns supreme over the skies which it flies. It flies over the skies of the Gambia, Senegal, Niger, Southeast Nigeria, Ivory Coast, and Ghana. However, it is more abundant in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Mozambique, Angola, Central African Republic, and Congo.

The Martial Eagle is easy to recognize; its chest, stomach and underside are characteristically white, with black spots. The rest of the animal is speckled black and white.

The eagle can also be known from its size; it measures 78 to 96 cm (31 to 38 in), and the average of 85.5 cm which is nearly 3 feet. This is quite a big animal; it is taller than the average dog. The wingspan is around 188 to 240 cm (6 ft 2 in to 7 ft 10 in). The largest wingspan on record is 8 ft 6 inches.

This is the king of the African skies; it primarily hunts by circling the skies in search of prey on the ground. It frequently takes on dangerous animals like snakes, cats, and antelopes- although with antelopes the targets are the young.

Ayre’s Hawk Eagle

The Ayre’s Hawk Eagle is another proper bird of the skies; one of the important eagles of West Africa. However, it must be stated that this eagle’s range is not particularly large in West Africa; however, its numbers are significant in the areas where it is found.

Eastern Nigeria, Eastern Benin, southern Ghana, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Mali are some of the places where this bird may be found. However, the Ayre’s Hawk Eagle is not restricted to these places; its range goes as far as Somalia, Namibia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Angola, and Zimbabwe.

This is a medium sized bird; it measures around 44 to 57 cm (17 to 22 in), and as for the wingspan, it usually measures around 106 to 137 cm (3 ft 6 in to 4 ft 6 in).

African Fish Eagle

The African Fish Eagle is a big species of eagle that looks like the Bald Eagle which is the national bird of the United States of America. This one too does not lack recognition; it is the national bird of Malawi, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

But the African Fish Eagle is not restricted to those countries; it resides throughout sub Saharan Africa- including West African countries. However, it doesn’t just stay anywhere; it stays where there are large bodies of open water, and those waters need to have plenty of fish in them.

The African Fish Eagle eats fish. It also needs tall trees where it can perch and observe the waters and its surroundings. It also breeds in tall tree.

Further Reading:


The various eagles in West Africa are not restricted to the sub-region; animals do not recognize borders and are likely to travel almost anywhere in search of food. One female Wahlberg’s Eagle was tracked and found to have traveled as far as West Africa, and then back to southern Africa within the space of a few months.

These majestic animals need protection; some of them are endangered, and suffer serious threats such as habitat loss among other things.  It is important that both governments and Non government Agencies come together to ensure their survival so as to maintain the balance of the ecosystem.

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