home   about   search

biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Aquila pennatus (Booted eagle) 

[= Hieraaetus pennatus

Dwergarend [Afrikaans]; Ekangakodi (also applied to some of the other eagles) [Kwangali]; Dwergarend [Dutch]; Aigle botté [French]; Zwergadler [German]; Águia-calçada [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Falconiformes > Family: Accipitridae > Genus: Aquila

Aquila pennatus (Booted eagle)  Aquila pennatus (Booted eagle)

Booted eagle. [photo Johann du Preez ©]

Booted eagle, Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park, South Africa. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]

Distribution and habitat

It breeds from central Asia to southern Europe and North Africa, heading south in the non-breeding season to India and sub-Saharan Africa. In southern Africa it is locally fairly common in patches across the region; it also has a small breeding population in the Western and Eastern Cape. It generally prefers mountainous country with cliffs, although non-breeding migrants can occur in almost any type of natural habitat.

Distribution of Booted eagle in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

Complex, as it has two different populations which occur in Africa, each with a different migratory pattern. The one breeds in Eurasia then heads south to southern Africa, excluding the Western Cape and Namibia, where it stays from November-February. The other population breeds in the Western and Eastern Cape, arriving from July-August and staying until March, it spends the rest of its time in its non-breeding grounds in Namibia and southern Angola.


It mainly eats birds, usually hunting aerially, stooping from a position high above the ground, to surprise and strike its prey from above. It sometimes fails to pull up from it's dive in time, then hits the ground with a thump. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Monogamous, territorial solitary nester, performing spectacular aerial displays in which it calls loudly, while performing steep dives and upward stoops.
  • The nest is built or refurbished by both sexes, consisting of a platform of thin sticks and twigs, with a cup lined with green leaves. It is typically placed at the base of a bush or small tree on a cliff ledge, often using the same nest repeatedly for up to about 28 years. It may also rarely breed in the canopy of a Eucalyptus tree in an open are, or alternatively use the old nest of a Grey Heron or Black kite.
  • Egg-laying season is from August-January, peaking from September-October.
  • It almost invariably lays a single egg, which is mainly incubated by the female for about 44-46 days.
  • The chick is fed by the female with food provided by the male, leaving the nest after about 70-75 days.


Not threatened, although in some localities its population is decreasing, due to habitat disturbance and poisoning.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.