Comparing the African Fish Eagle and the Bald Eagle

Eagles are large members of the Accipitridae family of hawks. These massive birds are easily identified by their size and a variety of other characteristics. They have large curved beaks and sharp talons on their feet. These magnificent birds come in a variety of species, with scientists recognizing at least 60 around the world! Continue reading to learn more about the African Fish Eagle and the Bald Eagle

The Bald Eagle

The bald eagle is a sea eagle (Haliaeetus species) that lives inland near rivers and large lakes. The adult male is approximately 90 cm (36 inches) long with a wingspan of 2 metres (6.6 feet). Females grow slightly larger than males, reaching 108 cm (43 inches) in length and a wingspan of 2.5 metres (8 feet). The males and females are both dark brown with a white head and tail. The bird’s name is derived from the conspicuous appearance of its white-feathered head, not from its actual baldness. Yellow is used for the beak, eyes, and feet.

The bald eagle, often known as a sea eagle, is one of the most recognizable birds in the world. It is found in North America, where two subspecies are known: the Southern Bald eagle and the Northern Bald eagle. Found near large bodies of open water with an abundance of food, such as seacoasts and large lakes.

The white head, neck, and tail of the Bald eagle contrast with the yellow beak and feet. The color of the breast and back is blackish-brown. The tail is wedge-shaped and moderately long. The feet lack feathers and have short, powerful toes and large talons. It has a large, curved beak. Females are slightly bigger than males. Aside from being the country’s national bird, the bald eagle has served as the country’s symbol since 1782.

Bald eagles are excellent swimmers and can soar to greater heights by riding thermal air on hot days as well as updrafts caused by terrain such as valley ridges. The Bald eagle has excellent vision and a keen sense of smell.


Bald eagles use their talons to pluck fish from the water, and they sometimes follow seabirds to find fish. Bald eagles also steal fish from ospreys. Aside from live fish, bald eagles prey on other birds, small mammals, snakes, turtles, and crabs, as well as carrion. They primarily feed on live or dead fish, but they are also opportunistic feeders. They go out hunting during the day.

Nesting / Breeding

Bald eagles are monogamous and will stay with the same partner for life. Pair bonding occurs through intricate aerial acrobatics. The couple constructs massive nests by weaving a web of sticks in an old tall tree or on a cliff near rivers or coasts.

The nest of a bald eagle is a large platform of sticks built atop a large, isolated tree or rock pinnacle located within easy flight of water. Nests are typically 1.5 meters (5 feet) wide, but older nests can be nearly twice that size. It takes about a month for the two or three eggs laid within to hatch. Incubation and feeding of the young are shared by both parents. Young birds are brown with whitish tail and wing linings, but when the birds are four to five years old, they begin to develop their characteristically pure white head and tail feathers. Be responsible when attempting to see these birds in their natural habitat.

African Fish Eagle

African Fish Eagles (Haliaeetus vocifer) are large eagles that are closely related to the critically endangered Madagascar Fish-eagles. They are also known as African Sea Eagles or River Eagles, West African River-eagles. Zimbabwe and Zambia have national birds of this species.

African Fish Eagles range in length from 25 to 30 inches (63 to 75 cm) including the tail. Males and females resemble each other, with the exception that the female is generally larger in size. The male averages 4.4 – 5.5 lbs (2 – 2.5 kg) and the female 7 – 8 lbs (3.2 – 3.6 kg). The male has a wingspan of about 6 feet (2 meters), and the female has a wingspan of about 8 feet (2.4 meters).

The African fish eagle is not a true eagle, but rather a member of the Haliaeetus genus of sea eagles, which also includes the American bald eagle and the Eurasian white-tailed eagle. This is one of the oldest genera of all living birds. It’s a sight to behold.

African fish eagles are kleptoparasites, which means they steal prey from other species on a regular basis. Goliath herons and saddle-billed storks are common victims of this piratical behavior. The toes of a fish eagle are covered in sharp barbs called spiricules, which help it grasp fish and other slippery prey.

This bird’s conspicuous nature and charismatic presence ensure that it figures prominently in several nations’ folklore and heraldry. As a result, it appears on the coats of arms of Namibia, Zambia, and South Sudan.


Waterfowl, small turtles, baby crocodiles, Greater and Lesser Flamingos, and carrion are all common prey for African Fish Eagles. They will frequently swoop down and snag fish from the water with their large clawed talons while perched on a tree, then fly back to the perch to eat it. If the fish is too heavy for them to carry (over 4 pounds or 1.8kg), they will drag it across the surface of the water until it reaches the shore.

In fact, fish aren’t the only thing on this adaptable predator’s menu. Other prey species include ducks, terrapins, crocodiles, small waterfowl, and even flamingos in East African soda lakes.

Nesting / Breeding

The African Fish Eagle is thought to be monogamous (mating for life). During the dry season, when water levels are low, they typically breed. Pairs usually keep two or more platform nests made of sticks and other pieces of wood, which they frequently reuse and build on over time. These nests can grow quite large, reaching up to 6 feet (2 meters) in diameter and 4 feet (1.2 meters) in depth in some cases. These nets are typically installed in large trees.

The female lays one to three white eggs with reddish speckles. She incubates the eggs for 42 to 45 days before they hatch. The male will help on occasion, but she is primarily in charge of brooding, whereas the male will feed the nesting female.