Tawny Eagle (Aquila rapax)

It is a medium-large eagle that occurs in different colors, ranging from whitish to creamy, reddish-brown, and occasionally slightly darker brown tone. This bird occurs in open scrubs and plains, avoiding dense forests and rarely observed over water. It is not as massive-looking as other eagles, and never seen in a vivid brown shade. Thus, the name of the species.

Read further to know more about the Tawny Eagle.

What is a Tawny Eagle?

Tawny Eagle (Aquila rapax) is a medium-large, handsome, long-lived eagle belonging to the Accipitridae family, like all its eagle cousins. The species was once regarded as a relative of the Steppe Eagle, but variances in their anatomical features, specifically their gape flange, made the bird to be classed on its own species. It thrives in Africa, north, and south of the Sahara desert.

Its seven levels of classification are as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Accipitriformes

Family: Accipitridae

Genus: Aquila

Species: A. rapax

Tawny Eagle Physical Description

Tawny Eagles are medium-large eagles, growing from 25.5 inches to 29.5 inches or 65 to 75centimeters, and weighing about 1700 to 3050 grams. They have a wingspan of 5.64 to 6.07 feet or 1.72 to 1.85 meters. Both sexes appear similar, but females tend to be relatively larger than the males.

As their name suggests, these eagles have a tawny-colored upperpart, blackish tail and flight feathers, and a duller lower back region. Its wings are accentuated with variably-colored streaks. Their bill is dark grayish and yellow, while the junction between the upper and lower mandible is also yellow. Eyes are of a piercing yellow-amber color. Legs are heavily-covered with reddish-brown feathers, and feet are equipped with large, yellow sharp talons.

Their juveniles and immature birds are paler, especially on the belly area. Their plumage appears to be dull or faded, though, can also be reddish.

Where can they be spotted?

Tawny eagles are spread throughout starting from Romania, Russia, Siberia, Mongolia, Arabia, India, and almost the entire Africa. These birds thrive in deserts, semi-deserts, open savannas, and less dense bush velds.

Interesting Facts You Should Know About the Tawny Eagle

Tawny Eagles, like its cousins, are carnivores and incredible hunters. Their diet revolves primarily on fresh animal carrions or those that are freshly killed. Other food items on its menu include insects, smaller animals, such as rabbits, reptiles, and even other birds. These birds hunt by perching on a branch or tree and rapidly swoop down when it spots prey, catching it with their sharp, formidable talons.

Whenever there is an opportunity, tawny eagles will also scavenge and steal prey from other birds of prey. They also regularly scavenge from humans.

These eagles are also tenacious flyers, reaching elevations of up to 1,968 – 14,760 feet. However, they soar only when air thermals are present, which can aid in achieving such heights. Otherwise, they perch on tree branches, waiting and observing the ground for food.

Like other species of eagles, tawny eagles are diurnal, hunting during the day and roosting at night. They often stay in the same territory for years, even up to decades, with their pair. These birds almost don’t have any predators once they reach their adult size, and are a vital part of the environment.

Tawny eagles are monogamous and will form life-long bonds with their partners. During courtships, the male tawny eagle does falling and rising displays, before the pair soars and performs their antics in flight. They will circle around the nesting ground and often lock claws in flights. These birds breed once a year, between April to July.

These birds build their nest or trees or on the ground, usually made up of twigs and sticks. The female tawny eagle will lay a clutch consisting of 1 to 3 eggs, which she will also incubate for 39 to 45 years. Though, the male may occasionally take the incubation responsibility.

After 84 days, the broods will become fledglings and will be independent at around 120 days. However, some juveniles will remain under parental care until the next breeding period. They can be competition between the siblings, leading to the death of the younger and weaker hatchlings. The juveniles will reach sexual maturity in 3 to 4 years.

Tawny Eagles are classified as a least concern species under the IUCN Red List.



Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Chobe National Park

Linyanti Swamp

Makgadikgadi Pan

Mashatu Game Reserve

Okavango Delta

Moremi Game Reserve



Addo Elephant National Park

Cape Peninsula National Park

Hluhluwe Game Reserves

Kalahari Gemsbok National Park

Knysna Lagoon

Kruger National Park

Madikwe Game Reserve

St Lucia Wetlands


Caprivi Region


Etosha National Park

Namib-Naukluft National Park

Skeleton Coast



Lechwe Plains

Lower Zambezi

South Luangwa

Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park




Lake Kariba

Mana Pools

Matobo Hills

Victoria Falls

Tawny Eagle