Topic : Landbirds
Article 53 23 September 2009
African Crowned Eagle feeding on a monkey
This large, impressive raptor is undoubtedly the most powerful bird of prey in the forests of Africa and easily capable of flying with a fully grown Vervet Monkey Chlorocebus pygerythrus. Records show that they are able to kill mammal prey that is too large to carry which must be disected if portions are to be carried to nests to feed hungry young.
Well documented records show that although their diet consists mainly of smaller mammals such as monkeys, small duiker and Rock Hyrax (Dassie) Procavia capensis, much larger prey up to the size of Bushbuck Tragelaphus scriptus are known to have been killed.
Still hunting, where the eagle waits in the upper canopy for prey to pass below, is perhaps the most common method of hunting. Seeking out prey such as monkeys in the upper canopy while in flight is another strategy that is used and in this case both the male and female often hunt together. Impact with the huge needle-sharp talons that pierces the prey diaphragm is usually what kills the prey.
A common ploy is for one bird to fly past the prey, and while it is being watched disappearing over the trees, the second bird follows about 30 seconds behind and hits any exposed prey from the rear! Large prey too heavy to carry, are dismembered on site and portions are then carried away to the nest site.
Prey is fed on for a couple of days, even in summer when carcasses tend to rot very quickly. The soft stomach parts are fed on first. The birds usually start by clipping away hair with their razor-sharp bills, and then they tear open the soft skin between the legs.