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What is a Bateleur?

By Bethney Foster
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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The bateleur is a type of eagle found in the tree savannas and open woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa. The bateleur Terathopius ecaudatus is in the family Accipitridae, which is made up of raptors, buzzards, and harriers. The bateleur is the only animal in the genus Terathopius and is the national emblem of Zimbabwe.

A medium-sized eagle, the bateleur nests in trees. The bird has a short tail and can be as much as 30 inches (75 cm) long and weighs more than 6 pounds (2.8 kg). The wingspan can be nearly 6 feet (175 cm). The male bird is usually smaller than the female.

The bird is colorful, with black plumage and markings of chestnut and gray. The underside of the eagle's wings is white. The face, bill, and legs of the adult birds are red. These colors can vary from pale to bright red, depending on the bird's mood. Juvenile birds are brown and white with green faces.

The birds mate for life and often return to the same nest for several years in a row. There will often be an unmated bird at the nest with the parent birds, though the unmated bird doesn’t help with the care of the young. The female lays one egg, which she incubates for about 42 days. Once the egg hatches, the baby bird remains in the nest for 90 to 125 days.

The father bird collects food and sticks for the nest while the mother incubates the eggs. Once the fledgling leaves the nest, its parents will continue to feed it for an additional 100 days. The bird may not reach full maturity for seven to eight years. Only about 2 percent of those that hatch make it to adulthood.

Also known as the conifer eagle and pine eagle, the bateleur preys on smaller birds and small mammals. Known as one of the snake eagles, it does sometimes feed on snakes, but is more likely to eat carrion. The bateleur hunts in flights about 150 feet (about 46 m) from the ground. When prey is spotted, the birds spiral down to catch their meals.

Silent most of the time, the bateleur does have a variety of barks and screams that it will sound on occasion. The term bateleur is French for tight-rope walker or acrobat and refers to this type of eagle’s habit of tipping its wings in flight and its aerial maneuvers.

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