What is the Largest Eagle in Africa?

The sub-Saharan African martial eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus) is the largest eagle in Africa. Polemaetus is the only species in the genus. It is a member of the Aquilinae subfamily with distinct feathering on its tarsus (the leg between a backward-facing knee and an ankle). It is a somewhat opportunistic predator that changes its food selection between mammals, birds, and reptiles.

The martial eagle is one of the largest and most powerful species of ‘booted’ eagles in the world. Its hunting method is distinctive in that it is one of the few eagle species that hunts primarily from a high vantage point, stooping on its prey.

This species, which lives in woodland belts of otherwise open savanna, has seen a rapid reduction in recent decades due to a variety of mostly man made reasons.

The martial eagle is one of the world’s most endangered bird species. Local farmers and game wardens frequently aim to eradicate martial eagles due to their propensity of stealing cattle and regionally valuable game, despite the fact that the effect of eagles on this prey is almost definitely greatly exaggerated.

Physical Characteristics of the Martial Eagle

The martial eagle is a massive bird. It can be anywhere between 78 and 96 cm (31 to 38 in) in length, with an average of 85.5 cm (33.7 in). Its entire length is limited by its tiny tail, which is typically short in relation to its wingspan. Despite this, it appears to be the sixth or seventh longest eagle species still existing.

Martial eagles have wingspan ranging from 188 to 227 cm (6 ft 2 in to 7 ft 5 in). Wingspans of up to 260 cm (7 ft 10 in to 8 ft 6 in) have been reported, although these claims may be unfounded.

Although wingspans of 205 cm (6 ft 9 in) and 207.5 cm (6 ft 10 in) have been stated for the species, ten measured martial eagles in the wild were found to have an average wing span of 211.9 cm (6 ft 11 in). Thus, among living eagles, the martial eagle looks to rank fourth in terms of wingspan, trailing only the Steller’s sea-eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus), the white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), and the wedge-tailed eagle (Aquila audax) in roughly that order.

What is the Largest Eagle in Africa?
What is the Largest Eagle in Africa?

The body mass of martial eagles is surprisingly variable for a species with a reasonably similar genetic make-up. To some extent, the species’ body mass variance is due to significant reverse sexual dimorphism as well as variable environmental conditions among different eagle populations.

Identification of Martial Eagle in the Field

The adult’s plumage is dark brown on the upper parts, head, and upper breast, with a lighter border on the feathers every now and then. Depending on the lighting, the dark feathers can appear greyish, blackish, or even plum-colored.

The underparts of the body are white with blackish-brown speckles are sparse in areas but noticeable. The underwing plumage is dark brown, while the flight feathers are whitish with black streaks, giving the wings of adults a gloomy appearance.

Martial Eagle Habitat Map
Martial Eagle Habitat Map

The tail bears similar barring to the remiges (flight feathers) on the underside, and the upper side is the same uniform brown as the back and upper wing coverts. Mature martial eagles have bright yellow eyes, pale greenish cere (waxy skin covering the base of the upper beak) and huge feet, and black talons.

Habitat of the Martial Eagle

The martial eagle can adapt to a variety of habitats to some extent, but it prefers open forests and forest borders, forested savannah, and thornbush habitats. Although the martial eagle has been seen at heights as high as 3,000 meters (9,800 feet), it is not a real mountain dweller, and resident eagles rarely rise over 1,500 meters (4,900 ft).

Closed-canopy forests and hyper-arid deserts are likewise avoided by these eagles. As a result, despite the species’ need for huge trees for nesting, it is generally missing from Guinean and Congolian forests. Sightings are almost always of martial eagles that live in forests near wide openings.

Fantastic Facts About the Martial Eagle

  • Martial eagles have eye sight around 3 times more powerful than humans
  • Martial eagles prefer to be solitary, with little patience for even their own genus
  • Martial eagles are called ‘leopards of the air,’.
  • Prey can consist of even large felines like Serval cats

Eating Habits of the Martial Eagle

Martial eagles are known for having exceptional eyesight (3.0–3.6 times human acuity), which is attributed to their eye being nearly as huge as a human’s. They can identify possible prey from a vast distance because of this capability; they have been reported to notice prey from as far as 5 to 6 km (3.1 to 3.7 mi) away.

Martial Eagles are the largest and most powerful of the African eagles, capable of knocking an adult man from his feet. One of their feet is said to be powerful enough to break a man’s arm. The Martial eagle is Africa’s largest eagle, weighing about 14 pounds (6.5 kg) and having a wingspan of approximately 6 feet 4 inches.

What is the Largest Eagle in Africa? Martial eagles like to watch from high tree tops
What is the Largest Eagle in Africa? Martial eagles like to watch from high tree tops

It measures 32 inches in length. The upper body is dark brown with a white belly with black streaks, white legs, and big talons. The young bird has a distinct appearance than the adult.


Nests are generally made in trees, ranging in height from 20 to 80 feet above ground, but are frequently erected in the area’s tallest tree, growing on a steep hillside or in a gorge, so the bird has a clear sweep away from the nest.

Pairs have one or two nests, which are utilized in alternate years if there are more than one, but only for subsequent breeding attempts if there are just one. They’re massive structures, measuring four to six feet across and up to four feet thick, and they’re generally basin-shaped when they’re young, meaning they’re much wider than they’re deep.

They’re built of huge sticks that are lined with green leaves and measure up to one-and-a-half inches in diameter. For several years, they may be utilized by a succession of birds.

Conservation Status of Martial Eagles

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has designated the martial eagle as Endangered. Due to its need for extensive territory and low reproduction rates, the martial eagle is likely to be rare in the wild.

ICUN Red Flag Status
ICUN Red Flag Status

Despite this, the species’ population has been steadily declining in recent years, owing mostly to direct human killing. Its conservation classification was upgraded from Near Threatened to Vulnerable in 2009, then to Vulnerable in 2013, and finally to Endangered in 2020.

Q & A About the Martial Eagle

What is the strength of a martial eagle?

Martial Eagles are the largest and most powerful of the African eagles, capable of knocking an adult man from his feet. One of their feet is said to be powerful enough to break a man’s arm. The Martial eagle is Africa’s largest eagle, weighing about 14 pounds (6.5 Kg.)

What are the popular prey of martial eagles?

The banded mongoose came in third place, behind only francolins and hares, as the most frequently selected prey for martial eagles, according to data collected from the Great Rift Valley and the Maasai Mara.

Is it possible for an eagle to kill a human?

Various huge raptors, such as golden eagles, have been seen assaulting humans, though it is unknown if they aim to predate humans or more likely warn them away from nesting areas.

Where can I see a Martial Eagle?

Martial Eagles can be spotted in protected parks such as Kruger National Park and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in South Africa.

Are Martcial Eagles nocturnal?

Martial eagles are diurnal.

Are male Martial eagles heavier than females?

Female Martial eagles are heavier than males: females weigh an average of around 5.2 kg (11 lb) while males weigh about 3.3 kg (7.3 lb).

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