Aquila ayresii (Ayres' hawk-eagle, Ayres' eagle) 

[= Hieraaetus ayresii

Kleinjagarend [Afrikaans]; Ayres-havikarend [Dutch]; Aigle d'Ayres [French]; Fleckenadler [German]; Įguia de Ayres [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Falconiformes > Family: Accipitridae > Genus: Aquila

Aquila ayresii (Ayres' hawk-eagle, Ayres' eagle)  Aquila ayresii (Ayres' hawk-eagle, Ayres' eagle) 

Ayres' hawk-eagle adult, South Africa. [photo Arno Meintjes ©]

Ayres' hawk-eagle juvenile, The Gambia. [photo Geoffrey Einon ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in isolated patches of sub-Saharan Africa. In southern Africa, it is rare in Zimbabwe, central Mozambique, the Caprivi Strip (Namibia), northern and south-eastern Botswana and north-eastern South Africa. It generally prefers dense woodland, forest edges and well-wooded suburbia, often roosting in stands of Eucalyptus trees.

Distribution of Ayre's hawk-eagle in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

Some populations are resident and nomadic, while others are intra-African breeding migrants. It is a non-breeding summer visitor to South Africa in the period from January-April.


It almost exclusively eats birds, especially doves and pigeons, soaring high above the ground in search of prey. Once it singles out a bird, it steeply dives to intercept it in mid air. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Little known in southern Africa, although it has been well-studied in East Africa; it is a monogamous, territorial solitary nester.
  • The nest is built by both sexes, consisting of a platform of a twigs and sticks, lined with green leaves and typically concealed in the fork of a well-foliaged, large tree.
  • Egg-laying season is from April-September, peaking from April-May.
  • It lays a single egg, which is mainly incubated by the female for about 43 days, while the male brings her food every 2-3 days.
  • The chick is fed once every day or so, leaving the nest at about 73 days old and becoming fully independent roughly three months later.


Not threatened globally, but Near-threatened in South Africa, as it is rare in the country due to loss and degradation of woodland, especially miombo (Brachystegia). It is also persecuted due to its tendency to kill homing pigeons, and other domestic birds.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 



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