Crowned Eagles in Winterskloof

We are privileged to have a pair of Crowned Eagles whose home range is the Winterskloof Valley, where they nest and raise their chicks.  Last year, the chick was being fed by residents and became tame, losing his fear of humans.  This familiarity led to tragic incidents in which he was shot twice over a period of time, by children using pellet guns.  This led to him being so badly injured that he will never fly again.  He was rescued, nursed back to health by Ben Hofmann and his team and is currently in a breeding programme at the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary.

The latest chick that this pair of Crowned Eagles has raised is now flying and we implore all residents, their guests and employees to allow this chick to grow and thrive, without interference or attempts to feed, touch or tame it in any way.  These magnificent birds are very capable of catching their own food and will only be placed at risk if we do not respect their “wildness”.  Raptors chicks NEED to learn how to look after themselves, to survive this fledgling period, then to leave the nest and successfully establish their own territory.  This is vital for the viability of the species.

According to André Botha (in May 2011) of the Birds of Prey Programme of South Africa’s Endangered Wildlife Trust, “the African Crown Eagle is currently listed as Near-Threatened (Barnes, 2000) and has a limited and fragmented distribution due the degradation of its indigenous forest habitat in the country.”

Garth Batchelor, one of South Africa’s leading experts on the Crowned Eagle, says that these “Eagles have one of the longest breeding cycles of any eagle.  The nest building starts in the middle of winter, in July or early August.  Egg laying can be at the end of August but is usually in September and sometimes even October.  Incubation is about 51 days while the chick will take up to 110 days to fledge.  I have recorded the fledged chick still being in the vicinity of the nest 9 months after fledging and still being tolerated by the adults.  The long period required for the chick to become independent is presumably the reason why these eagles breed every second year.  Pairs have been recorded to breed annually but we suspect that when this occurs it is because something has happened to the chick.  Around the Nelspruit area, out of a sample of 40 nests, we have calculated the average territory to be about 30 square kilometres. This is small for an eagle of their size, when compared to a Martial eagle which has a territory size of about 250 square kilometres.”

This may explain why the Winterskloof pair have bred again this year, after their chick was so badly injured and removed by Ben of Raptor Rescue for care at their Sanctuary.  If you have any queries or would like to learn more about these magnificent birds, please visit the team at their Sanctuary – they do wonderful work.

African Bird of Prey Sanctuary Tel/Fax : 031 785 2981 Cell: 082 35 90 900 www.africanraptor.co.za

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