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Terathopius ecaudatus (Bateleur) 

Berghaan [Afrikaans]; Ingqanga [Xhosa]; iNgqungqulu [Zulu]; Sipupa [Kwangali]; Chapungu [Shona]; Ingculungculu [Swazi]; Ximongwe [Tsonga]; Ntsu, Pętlękę [Tswana]; bateleur, goochelaar [Dutch]; Bateleur des savanes [French]; Gaukler [German]; Águia-bailarina [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

Terathopius ecaudatus (Bateleur)  Terathopius ecaudatus (Bateleur) 
Bateleur. [photo Callie de Wet ©] Bateleur. [photo Callie de Wet ©]
Terathopius ecaudatus (Bateleur)  Terathopius ecaudatus (Bateleur) 
Immature Bateleur. [photo Callie de Wet ©] Bateleur. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs across sub-Saharan Africa, excluding the lowland forest of West Africa and the DRC.  In southern Africa, it is locally common in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and northern and eastern Namibia and South Africa. It generally prefers savanna and woodland  habitats, such as arid Acacia savanna and miombo (Brachystegia) woodland and Mopane (Colosphermum mopane) woodland, especially with long grass. It may also move into drainage-line woodland in semi-desert shrubland.

Distribution of Bateleur 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.  

Predators and parasites

Nestlings are eaten by Bubo lacteus (Verreaux's eagle-owl).

Movements and migrations

Adults are largely sedentary, however juveniles disperse from their parents territories once they become independent, sometimes travelling great distances in search a territory. Juveniles may also aggregate in their hundreds at certain sites in southern Africa, suggesting that they may make large-scale movements.


It is mainly a scavenger, although about a third of its time is spent hunting, feeding on a variety of animals. It usually hunts aerially, sometimes flying to veld fires, as it feeds on animals killed by the heat or fleeing from it. It sometimes flies along roads in search of roadkills to feed on. The following food items have been recorded in its diet, either scavenged or hunted:


  • Monogamous, territorial solitary nester, performing spectacular aerial courtship displays in which the male repeatedly dives at and chases the female, who often rolls to present her talons. These acrobatic flights give the bird its name: "bateleur" is the French word for tight-rope walker.
  • The nest is built mainly by the female in roughly six weeks, consisting of a thin stick platform about 45-100 cm wide and 25-100 cm deep, with a cup set into it, which is lined with green leaves. It is typically placed in the fork of a large leafy tree, especially Knob thorn (Acacia nigrescens), Sycomore fig (Ficus sycomorus) and Jackal-berry (Diospyros mespiliformisi). It may rarely take over the nest of a Wahlberg's eagle, instead of building it's own.
Terathopius ecaudatus (Bateleur)  Terathopius ecaudatus (Bateleur) 
Bateleur performing a display, the purpose of which is not yet known. [photo Callie de Wet ©]
  • Egg-laying season is year-round, peaking from January-April.
  • It lays a single egg, which is incubated by both sexes for roughly 55 days.
  • Both sexes feed and brood the chick, taking turns to care for their young in the early nestling period. Later, they only visit the nest to give their young food; the chick takes its first flight at about 95-125 days old, becoming fully independent about four months later.


Not globally threatened, but Vulnerable in South Africa and Namibia, as its population in these countries is decreasing and it's range is contracting. It is now restricted to protected areas, as it often falls victim to persecution as well as dying from poisoned bait put out for jackals.


  • 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.