With its distinctive cry, the African Fish Eagle is typically heard more often than it is seen, even described as “the sound of Africa”. However, those who were on a recent game drive at Nambiti were treated to a sighting of this magnificent raptor as it was about to have its dinner.
It was an honour to witness the bird’s skill and expertise as it prepared its meal. As its name implies, the African Fish Eagle is an expert hunter. It is able to see five basic colours (compared to the three colours that the human eye can see), which means that it can spot camouflaged prey from a significant distance. It’s also an ambitious angler, and has been known to crash land into the water, grab a prized catch, and swim to shore with its massive dinner in tow to avoid losing it in the air.
Scientists say that having fish eagles near a water source is a good sign that their water is clean and safe, as they won’t hunt near water that is contaminated.
5 Fascinating Fish Eagle Facts:
- The African Fish Eagle is in fact not a ‘true’ eagle; it belongs to the Haliaeetus genus of sea eagles, one of the most ancient of all living birds.
- Fish eagles have a sneaky habit of stealing prey from other species, making them “kleptoparasites”.
- To help it grasp fish from the water, a fish eagle’s toes are coated in sharp barbs called “spiricules”.
- This versatile predator doesn’t only eat fish. It also enjoys dining on other aquatic prey such as small waterfowl, ducks, terrapins, and even baby crocodiles.
- The African Fish Eagle can be found on the coat of arms of three African countries – South Sudan, Namibia and Zambia.
The beauty of every game drive is that you never quite know what’s around the next corner, under the next rock, or right on the road. Seeing a fish eagle up close is certainly one for the bucket list!