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20 Crowned Eagle Facts: Guide to Africa’s Strongest Eagle

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Looking for details about the African crowned eagle? Here you will find everything that you need to know about crowned eagle size, habitat, and eating habits. We’ll also answer the question: “Do crowned eagles eat humans?”

crowned eagle

20 African Crowned Eagle Facts

These majestic birds are awe-inspiring and powerful. Keep reading for the top facts about African crowned eagles.

African Eagle Overview

  • Latin Name: Stephanoaetus coronatus
  • Locatation: Subsaharan Africa
  • Habitat: Dense woodlands and forests
  • Population Status: Near Threatened
  • Size: Up to 10 lb 6 oz (4.7 kilograms), with the female weighing more than the male
  • Wingspan: 6 ft 3 in (1.9 meters)
  • Diet: Mammels including ungulates (such as antelope), rock hyrax, and monkeys
  • Physical Features: Dark brown heads, white and blackish feathers, thick legs, and sharp talons
  • Lifespan: Up to 15 years.

1. What is the scientific classifiction of the African crowned eagle?

  • Kingdom: Anamlia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Acciptriformes
  • Family: Accipitridae
  • Genus: Stephanoaetus
  • Species: S. coronatus
  • Binnomial Name: Stephanoaetus coronatus

2. What other names is the African crowned eagle known by?

The African crowned eagle is also called the crowned eagle, and the crowned hawk-eagle.

3. Where do African crowned eagles live?

The African crowned eagle lives in Sub-Saharan Africa. They live from coast to coast across the central part of Africa, and only on the eastern side of the continent as you travel further south.

4. What is their habitat like?

They like to live in dense woodlands and forests, including in African rainforests. But as their traditional habitat is shrinking due to deforestation, you may spot one in a more urban location.

5. What does the African crowned eagle look like?

The African crowned eagle has a dark brown head. The upper part of its body is covered with dark feathers, while its belly is white with blackish blotches. The wings are also white, but with black tips and two black bars.

They have thick, strong legs with yellow feet and long black talons.

A young African crowned eagle looks quite different. It is hatched covered in fluffy, mostly white down. The first body feathers will start coming in at around 40 days, while the crown (head) feathers appear at about 2 months. Their feathers are lighter colored when they are young. It takes 3 years to mature to adult coloration.

african crowned eagle in flight

6. How tall is an African crowned eagle?

If you include tail feathers in the measurement, the African crowned eagle is 31-39 inches (80-99 centimeters) long. In terms of length, It is the 5th largest eagle in the world! It is preceded by the Harpy eagle, the Steller’s Sea eagle, the Philippine eagle, and the American Bald Eagle.

Its long tail helps guide it as it flies among the trees, as a rudder guides a boat.

crowned eagle size

7. What is the wingspan of a crowned eagle?

The largest authenticated wingspan of a crowned eagle is 6 ft 3 in (1.9 meters), although some claim they are larger.

For their weight, this is considered a relatively short wingspan. However, their wings are quite broad. This combination gives them great maneuverability in their forested home.

8. How much does an African crowned eagle weigh?

On average, the female is about 10-15 percent larger than the male. A female weighs between 7 lb 1 oz and 10 lb 6 oz (3.2-4.7 kilograms).

A male weighs between 5 lb 10 oz and 9 lb 1 oz (2.6-4.1 kilograms). This makes them the 9th heaviest living eagle species.

9. What do African crowned eagles eat?

African crowned eagles are meat-eaters. At least 90 percent of their diet is made up of mammals. As they can be found in many different countries in Africa, their diet varies depending on what’s available regionally.

Ungulates (such as antelope), rock hyrax (adorable little mammals native to Africa and the Middle East), and monkeys are regularly on the menu as their principal prey items. Every once in a while they may chow down on a bird or lizard, but this is not common.

One type of antelope that they feed on is the bushbuck. It can weigh up to 66 pounds (30 kilograms)! That is more than 6 times the weight of the biggest crowned eagle. Although usually, they hunt the antelopes that are only 4 times their size.

10. How strong is an African crowned eagle?

The crowned eagle is the most powerful eagle in Africa. Some would argue that it holds the “crown” for the most powerful eagle in the world (based on the ratio of eagle size to prey size), although others would give this title to the harpy eagle.

As mentioned above, crowned eagles are strong enough to go after prey 4-6 times their own weight. Their talons are strong enough to break spines and crush skulls.

As if yet, there has not been an actual test done to measure the pressure per square inch (PSI) of their grip strength.

crowned eagle strength

11. Are African crowned eagles aggressive? Are they dangerous?

Crowned eagles have a disposition described as nervous, constantly alert, and on edge. They will fiercely protect their nest.

There have been several attacks on humans, more on that below.

12. Do crowned eagles eat humans?

*Warning, this section is gruesome.*

Human attacks are rare, but they have happened. Here are a few examples.

  • In one case, an eagle was observed gouging a boy with its talons. The boy survived but was badly injured.
  • In another case, the skull of a human child was found in the nest of a crowned eagle pair.
  • And in yet another case, the severed arm of a child was found in a tall tree frequented by crowned eagles. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowned_eagle)
crowned eagle talons

13. How do African crowned eagles hunt?

Crowned eagles are very stealthy. They will perch silently in a tree waiting for an unsuspecting victim to appear down below. When they are ready, they will use their powerful legs, strong toes, and giant talons to snatch their prey, often crushing the skull in the process. For larger prey, the eagle will use its sharp hind talon to break the prey’s spine.

These eagles are built for speed. Thye can swoop after prey at an astonishing 100 miles per hour (160 km/h).

A fact that I find both interesting and disturbing is that a pair of crowned eagles may choose to hunt together. The male will soar high in the sky, making sounds to attract the attention of monkeys in the trees below. With the monkeys looking up in confusion, the female eagle will swoop in and nab one.

They prefer to eat their prey in the safety of tree branches. Larger prey will be torn into pieces on the ground and brought up to the nest bit by bit. I hope you are not eating your lunch while reading this…

14. What does the African crowned eagle sound like?

Crowned eagles are noisy, calling out often and loudly. The male’s cry is higher pitched than the female’s. His sound is described as “kewee-kewee-kewee” whereas the call of the female is “kooee-kooee-kooee.”

15. Are African crowned eagles monogamous?

Yes, African crowned eagles are monogamous- paired for life.

16. What is their mating ritual like?

A male works hard to attract his mate. If she’s going to stick with him for life, she’ll need to be impressed. He’ll fly high into the air and swoop down, only to climb back up again.

At the peak of each climb, he’ll flap his wings very quickly, throw back his head, and call out loudly (for up to 30 seconds). During the descent, he may drop as many as 200 feet (60 meters) at a time before ascending back up.

If the female feels sufficiently wooed, the two will lock talons and cartwheel down toward the ground, letting go at the very last second.

There is also a pre-copulation display in which the male runs around the crouching female with his wings upraised.

17. How many eggs does an African crowned eagle lay?

A female crowned eagle will lay 1 or 2 eggs. The eggs are white but sometimes have brownish flecks. Crowned eagles breed once every two years. Incubation lasts for approximately 49 days. During that period the female will sit on the eggs for 80-90 percent of the time with the male filling in on occasion.

If two eggs are successfully hatched, the weaker of the two will not last. It will either die of starvation (by being outcompeted for food by its sibling), or it may even be killed directly by its sibling. These birds are born fierce.

18. Do crowned eagles live in nests? What are they like?

Yes, African crowned eagles live in nests. The nest is made using both dead sticks and fresher green branches. The female gathers the material needed to make the nest, while the male is more involved in the construction of it.

A pair of eagles will use the same nest for many years, improving and expanding it. Over time the nest may become as large as 8 feet (2.4 meters) wide, and 10 feet (3 meters) deep. That’s huge!

19. Are African crowned eagles endangered?

They are not on the endangered species list, although their numbers are on the decline. This is due to the destruction of their home, the tropical African forest. Currently, African crowned eagles are listed as Near Threatened.

An eagle of the same genus (Stephanoaetus), the Malagasy crowned eagle, went extinct sometime around the year 1500.

20. What is the lifespan of the African crowned eagle?

They can live up to 15 years.

african crowned eagle

Your Turn

Did you learn something new about the African crowned eagle? Or perhaps you have a fact to add to my list. Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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