Terathopius ecaudatus
Population size
10-100 thou
Life Span
27 yrs
80 km/h
2-2.6 kg
55-70 cm
186 cm

The Bateleur is a medium-sized eagle native to Africa and small parts of Arabia. It is a colorful bird with a bushy head and very short tail which, together with its white underwing coverts, makes it unmistakable in flight. The tail is so small the bird's legs protrude slightly beyond the tail during flight. Both adults have black plumage, a chestnut mantle and tail, grey shoulders, tawny wing coverts, and red facial skin, bill, and legs. The female additionally has tawny secondary wing feathers. Less commonly, the mantle may be white. Immature birds are brown with white dappling and have greenish blue-grey facial skin.


Bateleurs range across Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Togo, Tanzania. These are birds of the open savanna country and woodland (thornveld) within Sub-Saharan Africa; they also occur in south-western Arabia. Found in closed-canopy savannah woodland habitats, including Acacia savannah, Mopane and miombo woodlands. They are very common in broad-leaved woodland in the Okavango Delta. In Namibia, bateleurs are often found over tall woodland near drainage lines, and ephemeral rivers in north-eastern Namibia and within the more arid Etosha National Park.

Bateleur habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Bateleur eagles are tree-nesting birds with a large home range. They live in pairs but each pair is territorial and in most areas lives alone. Bateleurs are generally silent but can produce a variety of barks and screams. These birds are active during the day spending a considerable amount of time on the wing. They hunt from swift, direct gliding flight across the country, or in wide sweeping circles. Bateleurs defend their territory by means of an aggressive attack flight pattern shown to intruding conspecifics. Males and females both display this behavior in all stages of the breeding cycle. This behavior is mainly shown to members of the same sex and particularly to non-adults. In the wild Bateleurs are shy of man and sensitive to disturbance at the nest, easily abandoning the structure. Bateleurs enjoy sunbathing; they frequently enter water-bodies for a bath and then open their wings to often sunbathe. Standing upright and holding their wings straight out to the sides and tipped vertically, a classic 'phoenix' pose as they turn to follow the sun. Bateleurs will also lie on the ground with their wings spread, exposing the feathers to direct sunlight, warming the oils in the feathers. The bird will then spread the oils with its beak to improve its aerodynamics.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Bateleurs are carnivores and scavengers; they will attack other species for food and will scavenge carrion. Bateleurs hunt birds and their eggs (mainly doves and pigeons), small reptiles, small mammals (like rodents, genets, and mongooses) and insects.

Mating Habits

September-May in west Africa; year-round in East Africa; December-August in Southern Africa
55 days
4 months
fledgling, eagle
1 egg

Bateleurs are monogamous; they mate for life and stay in the same nest for several years. The breeding season occurs from September-May in West Africa, throughout the year in East Africa and December-August in southern Africa, with a peak from January to April. Bateleurs are slow-maturing and slow-breeding species, laying only one egg at a time. Nests are stick platforms placed below the canopy of large trees such as thorny Acacia or knobthorn. Both parents put equal amounts of care into the young. Eggs are incubated around 55 days mainly by the female. Fledglings are ready to leave their nest about 110 days after hatching. Parents continue to feed their young for another 100 days and they become independent at 4 months of age. It takes young Bateleurs seven or eight years to reach full maturity.


Population threats

Bateleurs threatened by loss of habitat, pesticides, capture for international trade and nest disturbance. In South Africa and Namibia these birds are being trapped, for their feathers to be used in medicine by traditional healers for predicting future events. The population has also decreased due to it feasting on poisoned animal carcasses being left out for other species. The Bateleur's wide foraging areas and their ability to locate very small pieces of carrion makes them highly susceptible to poison-laced carcasses even from a small proportion of farmers who use poisons.

Population number

According to the Wikipedia resource, the total population size of the Bateleur is around 10,000 to 100,000 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are decreasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The Bateleur is thought to be the origin of the "Zimbabwe Bird", the national emblem of Zimbabwe.
  • The scientific name of the Bateleur 'Terathopius ecaudatus' roughly translates as "marvelous face, no tail", where 'Terathopius', means 'marvelous face' and 'ecauadatus' means 'without tail'.
  • Bateleurs are experts at finding smaller carcasses before most other scavengers.
  • Bateleurs may steal food at White-backed vultures. This behavior is known as kleptoparasitism.
  • "Bateleur" is French for "tumbler". This name implies the bird’s characteristic habit of rocking its wings or tilting action from side to side when gliding as if catching its balance.
  • Bateleur eagles are among a group of raptors that secrete a clear, salty fluid from their nares whilst eating. It is suggested that this is due to the general necessity for birds to use an extrarenal mechanism of salt secretion to aid water reabsorption.
  • Bateleurs are often seen in "praying" posture; this way birds allow ants to crawl over their wings and feathers, collecting bits of food, dead feather, and skin material. When covered in ants, the Bateleur then ruffles its feathers, startling the ants, which react by secreting formic acid as self-defense. This, in turn, kills the ticks and fleas, ridding the host of its parasites.


1. Bateleur on Wikipedia -
2. Bateleur on The IUCN Red List site -

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