Long-crested Eagle (Lophaetus occipitalis)

Long-crested Eagle

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Lophaetus occipitalis | [authority] Daudin, 1800 | [UK] Long-crested Eagle | [FR] Aigle huppard | [DE] Schopfadler | [ES] Aguila Crestilarga | [NL] Afrikaanse Zwarte Kuifarend


Monotypic species


Members of the genus Lophaetus are smallish eagles with long, broad wings, and a broad tail. The legs are fully feathered and the talons slender. They have a long crest made up of about half a dozen feathers. They are mostly black, the juveniles being similar. In its proportions and habits it is quite akin to the Buteo family, although it is biologically closer to Spizaetus or Aquila. The genus contains but one species, which lives in Africa.

Physical charateristics

The adult Long-crested Eagle is overall very dark brown or black, except for white patches at the joint of the wing both above and below, white under-wing coverts spotted with black, a white base to the tail and greyish brown tarsi. The eyes golden to reddish brown, the cere and feet yellow.
Immatures can be distinguished from the adult by the whiter tips of the neck feathers, the less prominent crest, and a generally more mottled appearance. The eyes are dark olive-brown, the feet and cere pale ochre-yellow.

Listen to the sound of Long-crested Eagle

[audio:http://www.planetofbirds.com/MASTER/ACCIPITRIFORMES/Accipitridae/sounds/Long-crested Eagle.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 110 cm wingspan max.: 120 cm
size min.: 53 cm size max.: 58 cm
incubation min.: 40 days incubation max.: 44 days
fledging min.: 53 days fledging max.: 58 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 2  


Africa : widespread, sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal to Ethiopia


It is usually seen in flight, often calling, or perched on a tree or a telegraph pole. It does most of its hunting from such perches. It can be found wherever large trees and open country are mixed, and is one of the eagles that prefers cultivated country and areas of human habitation to uninhabited areas of bush. It spends much of the day perched and does soar as much as some other eagles. The pair are usually not far apart and have their regular areas in which they can be found day after day. During the heat of the day they often rest in a densely leafed tree. The range of a pair is not usually more than a mile or two either side of the nesting place in the breeding season, and the same bird will repeatedly use the same series of perches day after day.


It is quite noisy in display – soaring at a height of some 300-500 feet above its favoured haunts, calling repeatedly, but not seeming to perform any striking flight manoeuvres. It will also make display calls from perches, especially near the nest.
The nest can be built at any height from twenty to sixty feet or more from the ground, in a large leafy tree such as a wild fig, or introduced Eucalyptus. It is often sited in a river valley where large trees may be available. When first built it is, for an eagle, a small structure – about two feet across by a foot deep – made of small sticks, and with a deep central cup about one foot across, lined with green leaves. It is usually in the centre of the nesting tree and well shaded, mostly in a fork of the trunk, but sometimes on a lateral limb. Both sexes take part in nest building and repair, and the same site is used for a number of years, but not generally for as long periods as with some other eagles.
One or two eggs are laid, dull white rounded ovals, with cloudy markings of brown, grey, and lilac and sometimes with a few clear brown spots. The breeding usually takes place in the latter half of the dry season, and in some areas extends into wet periods.
Only the female incubates, and she is fed near the nest by the male. She also leaves the nest to kill for herself at times. 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 brings prey to the site. After about three weeks the female brings more prey than the male. The young is fully feathered by about 28 days, and then grows steadily, climbing about on branches of the nest tree from 45 to 50 days and making its first flight at about 55 days. It then moves quickly away from the nest site. The parents continue to feed it for another two weeks or so after it has left the nest.
The Long-crested Eagle usually breeds every year, and generally rears one young per nest, the second egg, when laid, being sometimes addled, or at other times the elder young one probably kills the other.

Feeding habits

The diet of Long-crested Eagle consists mostly of small mammals caught on the ground, but also includes lizards, small snakes, orthoptera, etc. Very occasionally it takes young poultry, but is beneficial to man because of the number of small rodents that it kills.

Video Long-crested Eagle


copyright: Daniel Jimenez


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Long-crested Eagle status Least Concern


Mostly sedentary, but moves opportunistically into areas of temporarily abundant food supply and is somewhat nomadic in areas of pronounced wet and dry season, e.g., West Africa.

Distribution map

Long-crested Eagle distribution range map

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