The Bateleur eagle is the most famous of the snake eagles. Bateleur is French for ‘tightrope-walker’. This name was probably chosen because of its distinctive aerial acrobatics.
The bateleur has exceptionally long wings and a short tail, so that its feet extend beyond the tail in flight. The bateleur’s brown eyes are surrounded by facial skin that is a strikingly bright red, and devoid of feathers. As if to give a sense of artistic balance, the legs are the same brilliant red as the face. The female’s upperwing-coverts are brown, while the secondary flight feathers are mainly grey.
Bateleur eagles spend 8-9 hours each day in the air looking for food. Their diet includes antelope, mice, birds, snakes, carrion, lizards and especially road kills.
A female will lay a single egg in a nest that sits in a large tree, which offers protection. Mother incubates the egg while father collects food and sticks for the nest. After an incubation period of 52-59 days, the baby Bateleur eagle hatches. 110 days later, the hatchling will leave the nest, but will continue to receive food from its parents for another 100 days. Only 2% of chicks make it to adulthood.
The Bateleur eagle is found throughout Africa south of the Sahara. It prefers tree and bush savanna.
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