The Long-crested eagle
The long-crested eagle : (Lophaetus occipitalis) is small to medium-sized African bird of prey in the family Accipitridae and lives throughout Africa. The bird thrives in plantations, farmlands, woodlands, orchards, open forests, and forest edges. It also prefers perching for longer periods however once in a while, soars. It is one of the smaller of its cousins, detectable through its peculiar crest and white patches on its wings during flight. The bird derives its name from its peculiar long, shaggy crest at the prance of their crown. They are noisy birds, particularly during the breeding season and their calls include a high-pitched scream and a repetitive “kik kik kik”. The species are always in pair and the range of a pair is not usually more than a mile or two either side of the nesting place specifically in the breeding season, and the same bird will repeatedly use the same series of perches day after day. They are believed to have prophetic abilities in foretelling marriages, you ask where you will get a bride or groom and the direction it turns is the source of the mate. In Uganda, the pearl of Africa you can spot this amazing species in most of the National parks like Queen Elizabeth National Park.
The Long-Crested Eagles have a wholly dark brown to blackish manifestation, with exceptions for the white markings at the base of their primary feathers, and a greyish-barred tail consisting of white edges. It possess a hooked bill, yellow in color with a dark tip. It has long white patches at the joint of the wings and visible when perched thus forming white lines on both sides of the breast. They possess an irregular long, flabby crest at the end of their crown but in females it appears short. The adults are blackish-brown with long and thin feathers growing from the prance of the crown which are held erect to form a crest. The secondary feathers are black barred with slight grey and broad black tips, the base of the primary feathers and median underwing coverts are white, forming a noticeable white patch on the upper and lower surfaces of the wing which is visible in flight while the tail is black and barred with little pale grey. The juveniles are more similar to the adults but browner and the plumage is lighter in color, the crest is less prominent and appears shorter specifically in females or not yet developed and their eyes are grey. In adults, the eyes are golden or bright yellow but at times darker in females. The wax and feet are yellow with slender talons and slightly paling to white in males but females at times have dirty to brown legs, which may be an indicator of age.
The Long-crested eagle is often perched on trees on the roadsides, fences or telegraph poles. The species hunts generally in the early morning or at dusk, and then rests under the shadow of a tall tree during the day. It feeds mainly on small rodents and this bird is very noisy during its display and calls from perches, around the nest site normally using the same perch every day. The long-crested eagle is fairly a common resident in Africa mainly in the eastern areas. It does not perform flight movements and its display is only noisy. They are monogamous and a pair may usually be seen regularly day after day and likes to spend the heat days in dense covers.
The long-crested eagle is both a monogamous and a territorial bird usually located in river valleys surrounded with tall trees. During breeding, the male gives out a number of courtship displays comprising of steep dives, with the use of a rocking, level display flight followed by a number of repeated call soaring at a height of some 300-500 feet above its favored haunts, calling repeatedly. The breeding season is year-round, but it is probably related to changes in prey or rodent populations which are usually linked to rainfall. After courtship, both the male and the female build the nest which is a stick platform with a bowl-shaped depressed in the center about one foot across that is lined with green leaves. The nest is usually nestled in the mid-canopy and very close to a tree trunk mainly at the forest edges and the nest is used year after year for some good years. In addition, the species will often reuse the nest of another bird like the lizard buzzard. The nest is built at any height from twenty to sixty feet or more away from the ground, in an enormous leafy tree such as a wild fig. The female lays a clutch of 1 or 2eggs, dull white in color, rounded oval in shape with cloudy markings of brown, grey, lilac and at times with a few clear brown spots. The breeding normally takes place in the latter half of the dry season and in some areas extending into wet periods. Only the female incubates, and she is fed near by the male however she also leaves the nest to kill for herself sometimes. During the incubation period, the male is often near the nest and roosts in the same tree or in another close by. In the early fledging period the female remains on or near the nest and the male leads prey to the site for a period of approximately three weeks. In the first weeks after hatching, the female remains on or near the nest while the male brings food and after three weeks, the female hunts more than the male however the female brings more prey than the male. The young is fully feathered by about 28 days, and then grows steadily climbing at about 40 to 50 days and later performs its first flight at approximately 55days. It then moves quickly away from the nest site and both parents continue to feed it for other more two weeks till when it has left the nest. The Long-crested Eagle normally breeds every year, and mainly rears one young per nest, the second egg when laid, at times being addled or even at times the elder probably kills the other.
The Long-crested Eagle is a noisy bird and as well it perches as flying, especially at the beginning of the breeding seasons. The bird gives out loud and sharp calls and at times shrill “kik-kik-kik-kik-ih”. The display call is usually a loud and clear “keeee-eh” or “keee-ee-af”.
The long-crested eagle is a “sit and wait” hunter which waits on a perch, scanning the ground and swoops on prey with a gliding flight stroke. Up to 98% of the diet of the species consists of rodents like the greater cane rat, however it also comprises of small mammals caught on the ground but also includes lizards, small snakes and many more.