Any thoughts on what this raptor is?

The majority of responses say this bird is a young African Hawk Eagle, however there are a few who feel it’s a Booted Eagle. Stephanus Buys has included a photo of a Booted Eagle (bottom photo) for comparison.

Raptor Debbie Powell1

Debbie Powell took this photo in the Pilansberg last week. She would like the identity confirmed. Please post any thoughts in the comments section below. Here’s her original note:

“Last Friday, while in the Pilanesberg, I saw a raptor which I tentatively identified as a booted eagle (probably a juvenile); unfortunately it flew off before I could positively ID it. I have just been sent a picture of the bird taken by one of our party and wondered if there is someone on the net to whom I could send the picture to confirm the ID.”

Stephanus Raptor

4 comments to Any thoughts on what this raptor is?

  • Allan

    Immature African Hawk Eagle?

  • Dewald Swanepoel

    Have you considered juvenile African Hawk-Eagle. I’m fairly sure that’s what it is.

  • Tertius Gous

    Classic juvenile African Hawk-Eagle

    Note the general shape with longish legs, slightly rufous underparts and thin but distinct vertical breast streaks. Head typical with prominent supraorbital ridge and dark streaked feathering on crown and forehead reaching the bill (forehead around bill base usually paler than head in Booted Eagle). Upper wing coverts only slightly paler than rest of upper wing, with diffuse dark centres to coverts. Booted Eagle will show much paler upper wing coverts with coverts also showing very prominent dark central feather shafts. Also note the dark mottling on the nape and hindneck which is typical for juvenile African Hawk-Eagle. There are also no pale “landing-lights” visible which are present in most Booted Eagles.

  • Raptor ID is often a dynamic experience and is much enhanced by jizz
    and impression. Many raptors are notoriously tricky to ID from
    photographs as the exact moment the shutter is pressed often freezes
    the bird in a position that isn’t typical and creates a misleading

    However, I believe there are enough features visible in this photo to
    distinguish between a immature African Hawk Eagle and a Booted Eagle.

    Firstly, I think the structure and shape of the bird are very
    important. To me, this bird shows the relatively small headed, long-
    tailed (the tail extends well beyond the expected position of the
    folded wing tips), long-legged and powerful-footed impression of an
    African Hawk Eagle. In this photo, those huge feet and talons are
    especially conspicuous, betraying this bird as a powerful hunter.
    Although there is overlap between the diet of these two eagles, a
    large proportion of the diet of African Hawk Eagles is francolins and
    guineafowl, while the slightly daintier Booted Eagle has relatively
    smaller feet and largely feeds on medium-sized birds (doves are a
    favourite in some areas). Booted Eagle also has a typical “large-
    headed” look and a shorter tail and legs, all contributing to a more
    compact jizz.

    Secondly, on plumage features, the warm rufous underparts with light
    streaking are very typical of an immature African Hawk Eagle, and
    would be relatively unusual for a Booted, which also tends to show
    more marking on the upperwing coverts (but not always). I think the
    pale underwing coverts are peeking above the shoulder and these create
    the impression of the landing-lights, but these are no present. The
    tail barring is obscured partly by the tree branch and mostly by the
    soft undertail covert feathers.


    P.S. The Booted Eagle has been back in our Cape Town garden again, see
    for photos.

    Callan Cohen Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology,
    Mobile: +27 83 256 0491 University of Cape Town,
    Tel: +27 21 531 9148 South Africa.
    Skype: callancohen

    February 2010: Birdwatch magazine voted Birding Africa as one of the
    top 5 bird tour companies in the world, based on client
    recommendations (See for more survey details.)

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