The booted eagle, heiraaetus pennatus, has 2 main color forms. They measure 16.5 to 19.7 inches (42 to 50 centimeters) long and a wingspan that reaches 44.5 to 52.7 inches (113 to 134 centimeters) in length from wingtip to wingtip. Males weigh 22.4 to 27 ounces (635 to 770 grams) while females are bit larger, weighing in at 29.6 to 40.4 ounces (840 to 1,146 grams). Both booted eagle color forms are mostly brown with a light-streaked fore-crown, a cream to golden hind-crown, and distinctive light panels on the wing converts (small feathers which seal the bases of larger feathers). The difference lies in the color of the underside. The pale form has a mostly creamy white underbody whereas the dark form usually has a dark brown underbody. They are small and stocky with rounded heads and heavily feathered legs.
The booted eagle can be found in southern Europe, North and southern Africa as well as east and southwestern to central Asia. They will inhabit a wide range of environments including plantations, woodland, grassland and even deserts. Northern populations tend to build their nests in a tree or on the ledge of a cliff while the southern African populations will only build nests on a cliff. They may make their own nests or use those of other species such as crows. These birds are mostly migratory in Europe, with a few staying through the winter in southern Europe.
The diet of a booted eagle is different depending on their location. Northern populations will feed mostly on small mammals, birds and reptiles while rodents make up the majority of the African population diet. For land creatures (and even some birds) they will soar high in the sky until prey is spotted and then swoop down to pick them up off the ground with their talons. For the most part, birds are caught right out of the air. They do not really have any natural predators to keep an eye out for.
In South Africa, the breeding season for the booted eagle takes place from August to March. During courtship, fast and amazing stoops will be performed to try and impress. Females will lay 1 to 3 eggs (2 on average) at 2 or 3 day intervals. The female will incubate the eggs for 35 to 40 days while the male will bring food to her (and even for a time after the eggs hatch). The chicks will fledge (learn to fly) at around 50 to 55 days of age. They will however, continue to rely on their parents for another 40 days or so before becoming independent. It is unknown how long a booted eagle lives in the wild (although it is known that most chicks make it to adulthood), but in captivity they have been known to live up to 12 years.
The booted eagle is not considered endangered as a whole, but some local populations are facing some obstacles. Habitat loss, persecution, and pesticide use are probable causes of this. For the most part however, populations are stable and some have even benefited from agricultural activity. Hopefully, this bird can maintain its stable population and continue to live peacefully alongside people. After all, such a unique eagle species deserves to live and prosper far into the future.
“Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus Pennatus)” 1 July 2011
“Booted Eagle, Aquila Pennata” 1 July 2011
“An interview about the Booted Eagle – Rob Martin” 1 July 2011
“Booted Eagle – Hieraaetus Pennatus” 1 July 2011