Ayres’s hawk-eagle (Hieraaetus ayresii)

French: Aigle d'Ayres
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderFalconiformes
FamilyAccipitridae
GenusHieraaetus (1)
SizeLength: 45 - 61 cm (2)
Weight685 - 1045 g (2)

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

Ayres’s hawk eagle is an exceptionally small eagle, identified by largely black upperparts, contrasting softly with white underparts that are variably patterned with black spots and blotches (2) (4) (5). It has well feathered legs, a slight crest, and the male has a white forehead which the larger female typically lacks (2) (6). Immature birds are generally grey to brown above, and have faintly streaked, pale-rufous underparts (4) (6).

Ayres’s hawk eagle has a patchy sub-Saharan distribution ranging from Sierra Leone east to Somalia, and south to northern Namibia and northeast South Africa (2).

Found in dense deciduous woodland, riparian forest, forest edges, plantations, and occasionally, city suburbs (2) (6).

Typically, Ayres’s hawk eagle is either seen sitting unobtrusively for long periods on a perch, or soaring at height, scanning the air and ground below for food (6). When prey is spotted, this bird of prey performs a rapid dive, and if necessary, will dash through the canopy in pursuit of its quarry (2) (6). Doves and pigeons form a substantial component of its diet, but other birds and small mammals, such as squirrels and fruit bats, are also taken (2).

In the rainy season Ayres’s hawk eagle generally moves out of the dense woodlands of central Africa into more open habitats further south. Breeding takes place at different times of the year across its range. A single egg is produced by each breeding pair and incubated in a large stick nest, lined with leaves, high up in the fork of a large tree. The downy white chick hatches after 43 to 35 days and remains in the nest for 73 to 75 days before fledging (2).

Although vulnerable to clearance of woodland in parts of its range, the global population of Ayres’s hawk eagle is not thought to be significantly threatened (2) (7).

Aside from being listed under Appendix II of CITES (3), there are currently no known conservation measures in place for Ayres’s hawk eagle.

For further information on the conservation of birds of prey see:

For more information on this and other bird species please see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2008)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1994) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. CITES (September, 2008)
    http://www.cites.org
  4. Allan, D. (2000) A Photographic Guide to Birds of Prey of Southern, Central and East Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa.
  5. Sinclair, I. (1994) Field Guide to the Birds of Southern Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa.
  6. Ferguson-Lees, J. and Christie, D.A. (2001) Raptors of the World. Christopher Helm, London.
  7. BirdLife International (January, 2009)
    http://www.birdlife.org