Setswana Name: Kgoadira
The African Fish Eagle is a large bird, and the female is larger than the male. They are very distinctive in appearance with a mostly brown body and large, powerful, black wings. The head, breast, and tail of African Fish Eagles are snow white and the hook-shaped beak is mostly yellow with a black tip.
The outstanding field characteristic of the Fish Eagle is its loud ringing cry which is often heard long before the bird is visible. The ringing, far-carrying call is "weee-ah, hyo-hyo" or "heee-ah, heeah-heeah", (the male's voice is more shrill than that of female) calls while perched or in flight. The bird throws its head back when it makes the call. So well known and clear is the call of the African Fish Eagle that it is often known as "the voice of Africa".
Breeding season for African Fish Eagles is during the dry season, when water levels are low. The breeding display consists of much soaring and calling with very occasional claw-grappling. African Fish Eagles are believed to mate for life, and pairs will often maintain two or more nests. The Fish Eagle’s nest is used year after year, growing with the addition of new material each year. The nests are placed in a large tree and built mostly of sticks and other pieces of wood.
One to three white eggs are laid at three day intervals. Incubation is mostly done by the female, but the male will incubate when the female leaves to hunt. Incubation lasts for 42 to 45 days before the chicks hatch. The eggs will often hatch a few days apart, and the eldest chick will usually kill any younger chicks. Fledging lasts for 70 to 75 days, and after about eight weeks the chick is capable of feeding itself and will usually begin to venture outside of the nest two weeks later.
The African Fish Eagle is most frequently seen by the rivers, lakes and coasts of Africa south of the Sahara. Near Lake Victoria and the other great lakes of Central Africa it is to be seen in large numbers. It is most frequently seen sitting high in a tall tree from where it has a good view of the stretch of river, lakeshore or coastline which is its territory.
African Fish Eagle is a common resident in Botswana. Common and conspicuous throughout the Chobe and Okavango systems, they may appear on larger pans during periods of heavy rainfall.
The African Fish Eagle feeds mainly on fish, which, upon spying it from a perch in a tree, it will swoop down upon and snatch from the water with its large clawed talons and fly back to its perch to eat. Should the African Fish Eagles catch a fish over 1.8 kg it will be too heavy to allow it to get lift, so it will instead drag the fish across the surface of the water until it reaches the shore. It will also feed on waterfowl, small turtles, baby crocodiles, flamingos and carrion.