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Wahlberg's Eagle - BirdForum Opus

Dark morph Wahlberg's Eagle (notice crest)
Photo by John Dempsey
South Africa, August 2003
Hieraaetus wahlbergi

Aquila wahlbergi


Length 53–61 cm (20¾-24 in), mass 0.85-1.5 kg, females larger than males.
Sitting, a crest should be present, but reportedly, it is surprisingly often not visible. Three colour morphs occur, pale, dark, and buff.
In flight the shape is diagnostic; the tail is seldom spread, usually appearing long, narrow and square; the wings are also long and narrow. Short but not round nostril, (relatively) small bill, dark iris.

Similar Species

Dark morph Wahlberg's Eagle
Photo by Steve G
Makasutu, Western Division, The Gambia, November 2005

The shape of the nostrils is different between this species and Tawny Eagle; Tawny Eagle has nostrils on a diagonal that is almost vertical, while Wahlberg's Eagle has nostrils almost horizontal appearing shorter (but not round).


Sub-Saharan Africa. Widespread from Senegal to Sudan and Ethiopia and south to north-east Namibia, Botswana and north-east South Africa. Absent from the closed forests of Central Africa.

Southern breeders are migratory and winter to the north of the breeding range.


This is a monotypic species1.

Aquila vs. Hieraaetus

Hieraaetus species were formerly placed in a broader defined Aquila by some authorities (e.g. Clements, 2005). However, all authorities now place these species in Hieraaetus.


Wooded savanna, riverine woodland and lakesides.



Dark morph Wahlberg's Eagle
Photo by nkgray
Afsaal Picnic spot, Kruger National Park, South Africa, 15 January 2008

They build a stick nest in the fork of a tree or the crown of a palm tree. The clutch consists of 1-2 eggs.


They feed mostly on reptiles, particularly lizards, small mammals and birds.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2017. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2017, with updates to August 2017. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Sinclair et al. 2002. Birds of Southern Africa. Princeton Field Guides, Princeton, New Jersey, USA. ISBN 0-691-09682-1
  3. Birdforum thread discussing nostril shape in eagles
  4. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved Mar 2018)

Recommended Citation

External Links

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