The Greater Kruger National Park, of which Londolozi forms a part, is a massive area of exquisite beauty. Various species of animals roam the savannah grasslands and thick riverine bush, and in these summer months, a wide range of bird species flock to us too.

At this time of year the young impala lambs are abundant and every predator at Londolozi is taking advantage of this new-found opportunity to hunt. Included in these predators is one that lurks in the shadows of large Jackalberry or Knobthorn trees and is one you may never have expected.

Martial eagle

A Martial Eagle, the largest raptor found at Londolozi, scans the surrounds from its perch in a Marula Tree. It’s large size, yellow eye, feathered legs and speckled chest make it unmistakable.

The Martial Eagle is the epitome of strength and beauty in the predatory handbook of African eagles. It is a monster of a bird with a wingspan of over two meters, talons the size of a man’s hand and an appetite for small mammals. On one particular morning, we spotted a Martial Eagle hiding itself from plain view, scanning the area for a potential meal from a high perch. A herd of impalas approached the area and amongst them were a couple of lambs. Unbeknownst to them, the Martial Eagle was readying itself. I had known about these eagles hunting and killing monitor lizards, small birds and even young antelopes, however, I wasn’t at all prepared for what was about to happen. The bird swooped down from its perch like a silent assassin, locking its eyes on a target and closing in on it. It smashed into a lamb, its talons hitting their mark, and it was over in an instant. We were all completely flabbergasted.

A Martial Eagle takes off in the early morning light. Huge birds, they can take prey up to the size of small antelope.

A Martial Eagle takes off. On occasion birders may confuse the Black-chested Snake Eagle and Martial Eagle from a distance. However, the large size and very dark underwing make this bird unmistakable.

A regal Martial Eagle sits atop its perch keeping an eye out for a potential meal. Their favorite meal is a monitor lizard, but they will take anything up to the size of an impala lamb if they get the chance

A Martial Eagle scans for prey from its chosen perch. The huge talons and speed at which it lands on its prey means that it can kill small antelope on impact.

The eagle opened its wings to cover the kill, probably hiding the carcass from view so that no other predatory birds, such as vultures would detect it from the air. It then slowly started to feed, whilst cautiously looking around for anything that could potentially rob it of its hard-earned meal.

At Londolozi there is no better time of the year to view birds of prey than during the summer months (October to March). The Wahlberg’s eagles are in abundance, the less commonly seen Steppe eagles can be found feeding on termites as the little insects reassemble their mounds after mesmerising thunder storms. Tawny eagles and vultures soar high in the skies, using their incredible sense of sight to detect any sign of predation from the night before. And the Fish Eagles sound their iconic call as you sit on the deck enjoying your morning breakfast and coffee.

Tawny Eagle

A Tawny Eagle scans the ground below from its tall perch.

African_fish_eagle_above_water

A Fish Eagle swoops low over water looking for its next meal.

But just when you think you have seen them all, you might be graced by a sighting as spectacular as the one I described above. A rare and remarkable sighting of the biggest of them all. 

So when you visit Londolozi again, grab your binoculars and look at these feathered individuals and let your ranger explain how each one of them is perfectly adapted to their purpose. You will be amazed what you can see when you spend just a little bit of time with them. 

Written by Werner Breedt, Londolozi Ranger

Filed under Birds Wildlife

About the Author

Werner Breedt

Field Guide

Werner came to Londolozi already well versed in the ways of the bush, having guided at Rock Fig lodge to the north of us. Although his Afrikaans accent can be difficult to understand at times, as is his continued support of the Blue ...

More stories by Werner

2 Comments

on A Martial Eagle and a Kill You Wouldn’t Expect
    Nicki says:

    Great shots Werner. Which lens did you use for the fourth shot – it’s amazing. See you all in 3 days!

    Jill Grady says:

    Such beautiful pictures Werner! I’m sorry for the Impala lamb, whose life was over before it hardly began — life is harsh in the wild, but it must have been an astonishing sighting.

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