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The mighty Big 6 birds of the Kruger – The Martial Eagle

Martial Eagle
Martial Eagle in flight. 
The Martial eagle is the largest of all eagles found in Africa and weighing 3 – 6.2kg (6.6 – 13.7lb) making it the fifth heaviest eagle on the planet. They live in open and semi-open areas of sub-Saharan Africa.

This eagle’s upperparts are a dark brown colour, their bellies are white with black streaks and they have grey specks on their head and chest. They have pure white legs with large, powerful talons.

The Martial eagle can reach a length of up to 96cm (38in) and has an impressive wingspan of up to 260cm (8ft 6in). The females are larger with more specks than their male counterparts.

As mentioned they live in sub-Saharan Africa, making home in open or semi-open habitats. Their numbers are greater in protected areas such as the Kruger National Park and other nature reserves.

Martial Eagle
Martial Eagle nest.
They make nests in areas such as woodlands, savannah regions with trees and thorn bush environments. Their territories range in size, from less than 10km (6.2mi) distance to more than 1000km2 (390sqmi).


They bathe daily in order to keep their feathers clean and working efficiently.

The Martial eagle has exceptional eyesight being 4 times better than a human’s eyesight. It is with this excellent eyesight they are able to spot prey 3 to 5 kilometres away.

Martial Eagle
Martial Eagle.
They are on top of the avian food chain and have no natural predators with humans being their only threat.

Their diet consists of a wide range of prey, such as other birds including guinea fowls, francolins and bustards and mammalians mainly hyraxes and small antelopes. They also eat carnivores like mongoose, serval cats and jackals. This eagle will munch on reptiles including large lizards and even some snakes.

This large eagle hunts for unsuspecting prey usually by circling the skies above their territories and stooping suddenly to catch their meals. They have also been known to hunt from a perch although not often.


Martial eagles form monogamous pairs when reaching sexual maturity at 5 years of age. The pair mates during the dry season in their geographic area. A pair of Martial eagles tend to only mate once every two years. The male performs a somewhat subtle mating dance for the female by flying in circles. Although rare, the females will sometimes join the male for a dance in the skies, grasping their talons to one another’s. 

They build their nest in a large tree often placing them in the main fork of the tree standing at least 6 metres (20ft) high off the ground.

Martial Eagle
Martial Eagle chick.
The female usually lays only one egg, sometimes two eggs and incubates the egg for 45 to 53 days. The female remains in the area with the egg or young chick while the male hunts and brings prey to the nest. After about 50 days of daddy duty, the male is seldom seen while the mother hunts and brings the prey to the nest herself.

Martial eagle chicks practice hunting alongside their parents and learn to fly. The time comes to fly the nest for good usually after 6 to 12 months and find their very own territory.

Did you know?

The Martial eagle can knock a grown man off his feet and is said to have such powerful talons capable of breaking a person’s arm.

They live on average up to 16 years and a maximum of 30 years in the wild.

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