What’s on KZN’s crowned eagles’ menu?


African crowned eagle. Source: Wikimedia

African crowned eagle. Source: Wikimedia

This one’s for bird lovers, especially those who spend their time watching the feathered inhabitants of KwaZulu-Natal. A new study in the Ostrich journal sheds light on exactly what African crowned eagles in the province eat.

Remains of 195 collected items of prey were collected from 17 nest sites. Rock hyrax (Procavia capensis), vervet monkey (Chlorocebus pygerythrus), blue duiker (Philantomba monticola), greater cane rat (Thryonomys swinderianus) and bushbuck(Tragelaphus scriptus) were the items of choice.

The aim of the study was to investigate the species composition of prey caught in the forest, savanna and emerging habitats in which African crowned eagles (Stephanoaetus coronatus) breed in KwaZulu-Natal.

Only eagles that nested inside protected areas were recorded preying on domestic animals. In terms of biomass.

“The surprisingly high proportion of rock hyraxes and low proportion of vervet monkeys caught in emerging habitat may indicate that African crowned Eagles nesting in this habitat are adapting to a more specialised feeding strategy compared with those nesting in habitats that are more natural,” says lead author Gerard Malan of the Tshwane University of Technology. “Future studies should investigate how and why prey proliferates in emerging habitats and examine the association between land uses and the diet of African crowned eagles.”

The study also includes researchers from the University of Manchester, Iziko Museums of South Africa and the University of Cape Town.

Reference: Malan, G. et al (2016). Diet of nesting African Crowned EaglesStephanoaetus coronatus in emerging and forest–savanna habitats in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, Ostrich


Engela Duvenage

Co-founder of SciBraai.co.za. Day job: Science writer and science communicator who loves turning research papers into news stories. Claim to fame: mother of two daughters; winner of the Izethelo Award for Outstanding Journalism (2016) from the South African fruit industry, and winner of the best technical article award (2016) as presented by the South African Agricultural Writers' Association Background: MPhil (Journalism, specialising in science journalism) and HonsBA (Psychology).

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