Aquila nipalensis (Steppe eagle) 

Steppe-arend [Afrikaans]; Ukhozi (generic term for eagle) [Xhosa]; Steppearend [Dutch]; Aigle des steppes [French]; Steppenadler [German]; Įguia-das-estepes [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 nipalensis (Steppe eagle)   

Steppe eagle, South Africa. [photo Arno Meintjes ©]


Distribution and habitat

Breeds from southern Ukraine to central Asia, heading south in the non-breeding season to India and Africa. In southern Africa it is locally common in patches of northern Namibia (including the Caprivi Strip), northern and eastern Botswana, Zimbabwe, western Mozambique and north-eastern South Africa. It generally prefers savanna, open woodland and grassland; it is largely absent from mountainous and densely forested areas.

Distribution of Steppe 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

Palearctic breeding migrant, arriving in southern Africa in the period from October-November. It then moves nomadically in search of termite alate emergences, eventually departing in the period from March-April.


It feeds mainly on termite alates, gathering in flocks of up to about 800 individuals at termite alate emergences, chasing them both in the air and on the ground. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • termite alates
    • Hodotermes mossambicus (Northern harvester termite)
  • recently fledged Red-billed queleas (Quelea quelea)
  • carrion


Numbers of migrants in Israel have halved since 1975, which is thought to have been largely caused by radioactive fallout from Chernobyl; it is also frequently electrocuted on power lines.


  • 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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