Ayre's hawk eagle
|Ayre's Hawk Eagle|
|Population||6,700 est. (2015)|
|Conservation status||Least concern|
Ayer's hawk eagle (Hieraaetus ayresii) or Ayer's eagle is a bird of prey found over much of sub-Saharan Africa.
Ayre's hawk eagle is small; it has a length of eighteen to twenty-two inches, a wingspan of up to forty-nine inches, and weighs about two pounds. Females are slightly larger than males, and lack a white forehead that the males bear. The coloration is a blackish-brown above, with the underside white with dark spots or blotches; this coloration carries to the underside of the wings, where the spots change to bars on the primary and secondary flight feathers. The tail is long and barred, and the legs are fully-feathered. Juvenile birds are drab with pale rufus underparts.
Range and habitat
Ayer's hawk eagles are found throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa, from Guinea and Sierra Leone east to Somalia, south to Namibia and northeastern South Africa. They are primarily forest birds, hunting in deciduous woodlands and forest edges, but they will also hunt in savannahs, plantations, and the suburbs of many cities.
Ayer's hawk eagles hunt from either perches - where they have been known to sit and scan the landscape for hours - and from soaring. When prey is located they will make a rapid dive to make the kill. Prey items taken include pigeons and doves or other birds of similar size, as well as small mammals and reptiles.
Nesting takes place during the spring or summer months, depending on the location. The birds move away from the thick forest towards open country and place their nests high in a large tree. A single egg is laid, with both parents incubating up to forty-three days. The chick fledges some seventy-five days later.
The ICUN Red Data List has this bird listed as "least concern", despite the estimated 6,700 adult individuals scattered over much of southern Africa. Existing threats include degradation of habitat due to human activities such as farming, as well as the clearing of open woodlands. Pesticide use has also been a factor, as well as outright persecution: Ayre's hawk eagles have been known to hunt racing pigeons, causing the eagles to be shot as a result.