Bateleur by Albert Froneman


The name Bateleur is derived from the old French word for tumbler or acrobat owing to the birds “tight-rope walking” appearance as its tips from side to side in flight. This near-threatened is the most easily identified eagle of the region, both in flight and perched. The black, white and chestnut plumage, combined with the diagnostic wing shape and very short tail, render this bird unmistakable.


The back, rump and tail are chestnut in colour. The iris is a deep honey-brown, bill blue-grey at tip, merging to yellow at base, cere, bare facial skin, legs and feet bright red.

Voice and Habits

Their call is a load bark “kow-wah”. The flight action is diagnostic, with the long wings held slightly upwards, rarely flapping, flying direct, canting from side to side. The black trailing edges to the wings are broad in the male and narrow in the female, tail is very short, feet extending slightly beyond tail.


The Bateleur is a common resident in woodland and savanna in large protected areas, scarce elsewhere due to poisoning. Most often encountered in large game reserves. Often seen on the ground at waterholes, sometimes in groups.


Their diet consists of mammals, birds, reptiles, frogs, fish and insects. Mainly a scavenger in most areas, searching for road kills and carcasses, may rob larger eagles and vultures of food.


They are monogamous, often retaining the same mate in successive years. Breeds singly, laying one egg in a stick nest built in the main fork of a large tree. Unlike most eagles, both sexes share incubation and brooding duties. They breed from December to March. The egg is plain white, becoming nest stained. Incubation 58 days, nestling period 110 days, fed by both parents. Young dependent on parent birds for another 90 to 120 days after first flight. Immature birds are brown in plumage, black bill, cere and face pale greenish blue, legs and feet whitish. Young take 6 to 7 years to acquire adult plumage.

This photograph was taken by Albert Froneman.