Long-crested Eagle (Lophaetus occipitalis)

It is a large, bulky, darkish eagle, with a tall, flabby crest. This bird thrives in plantations, farmlands, woodlands, orchards, open forest, and forest edges. Prefers perching for extended periods but once in a while, soars. A prolonged, booming “kweeeeeyaa” characterizes its call.

Read further to know more about the Long-crested Eagle.

What is a Long-crested Eagle?

Long-crested Eagle (Lophaetus occipitalis) is a bird of prey belonging to the Accipitridae family of eagles. It is one of the smaller of its cousins, recognizable through its distinctive crest and white patches on its wings when in flight. This bird goes back to its regular perches, in their chosen habitats, swooping down to catch rodents and vlei rats once detected.

Its seven levels of classification are as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Accipitriformes

Family: Accipitridae

Genus: Lophaetus

Species: L. occipitalis

Long-crested Eagle Physical Description

Long-Crested Eagles have an entirely dark brown to blackish appearance, with exceptions for the white marking at their primary feathers’ base, and grayish-barred tail with white edges. They have a distinctive, long, flabby crest at the rear of their crown, in which they got their name. Eyes are bright yellow but may appear darker in females. Feet and cere are yellow but duller to whitish in males. Juveniles or immature birds look like adults, but sport a paler plumage, while crest is yet to develop. They are one of the smaller eagles, growing from 21 to 23 inches or 53 to 58 centimeters and weighing 912 to 1500 grams. Females are relatively larger and heavier.

Where can they be spotted?

Long-crested Eagles are found across sub-Saharan Africa, such as in Botswana, Ethiopia, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Senegal, and Zimbabwe. These birds thrive in moist woodlands, forest edges, marshes, farmlands, woodlands, pastures, plantations, and orchards. They avoid arid areas,

Interesting Facts You Should Know About the Long-crested Eagle

Long-crested Eagles feed almost mainly on rodents, which is believed to take about 90% of their diet, making them beneficial to farmers. Other food items they consume include fish, lizards, arthropods, and small birds. Occasionally, they also eat mulberries and wild figs. They hunt from a perch, keenly observing their prey, and then swoops down to catch them once detected. These birds have a wide gape, and swallow their prey whole.

They are monogamous birds, and courtship displays are characterized by rocking flights, steep dives, and calling. Breeding season occurs throughout the year but is generally linked to the population of rodents and, in turn, rainfall. Egg-laying season peaks from July to November.

Both sexes construct the nest, which is a cup made of sticks, with green leaves interior. They build the on tree trunks found in the middle canopy. The most common trees used are Acacia, Eucalyptus, Musasa, Willow, and Fig.

The female long-crested eagles will lay 1 to 2 eggs, which she will solely incubate for 42 days, while the male hunts and provides her food. Chicks hatch 15 days apart, which will also be fed by the male initially. After 53 days, the chicks will fledge before leaving parental care 2 to 3 months later.

Long-crested Eagles do not face much persecution as they are deemed beneficial by farmers in controlling the rodent population. However, their number is in threat due to the destruction of habitats and collisions with vehicles and power lines. Still, the species does not reach decline thresholds, and they are evaluated as Least Concern (LC) under the IUCN Red List.



Chobe National Park

Linyanti Swamp

Makgadikgadi Pan

Okavango Delta

Moremi Game Reserve



Addo Elephant National Park

Hluhluwe Game Reserves

Kalahari Gemsbok National Park

Knysna Lagoon

Kruger National Park

St Lucia Wetlands


Caprivi Region



Lechwe Plains

Lower Zambezi

South Luangwa

Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park




Lake Kariba

Mana Pools

Matobo Hills

Victoria Falls


Long-crested Eagle
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