The most distinctive sound of the African bush, apart maybe from the Lion’s roar, is the weee-ah, kleeuw-kleeuw-kleeuw call of the African Fish Eagle Haliaeetus vocifer. It’s a sound that is synonym with safari, and when you hear the call, it takes you back to that special African safari experience.
This distinctive raptor (with its gleaming white head, mantle and breast, black back and chestnut shoulders, belly and thighs and bright yellow facial skin) is associated with rivers and other large water bodies, and occurs widely throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
The African Fish Eagle spends most of its time perched in large waterside trees (up to 90% of the day), from where it launches its famous, graceful, sweeping dive to catch fish below the water surface. It routinely catches fish weighing up to 4kg, remarkable when you consider the eagle only weighs 2.4 to 3kg itself! It specialises in catching tilapia and catfish species, but will also take birds in flight, along with catching monitor lizards, frogs, small mammals and will even take carrion. It has even been recorded preying on bats in Kasanka National Park in Zambia.
The African Fish Eagle is a highly territorial species, with females being the most aggressive of the two sexes. Intruders are attacked aggressively, with fights sometimes ending in death. They mostly occur as a territorial pair, but almost always hunt alone.
With an estimated global population of between 100,000 and 200,000 pairs, the African Fish Eagle is not considered threatened and is classified as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.
Interestingly, it is the national bird of several African countries, including Zambia, Malawi and Namibia.
Join one of our Zambia Safaris and Tours to experience this wonderful bird with us.