Tawny Eagle (Aquila rapax)

Tawny Eagle

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Aquila rapax | [authority] Temminck, 1828 | [UK] Tawny Eagle | [FR] Aigle ravisseur | [DE] Raubadler | [ES] Agulia rapaz | [NL] Steppe-arend


Monotypic species


Members of the genus Aquila have long, broad wings and a medium tail. There are currently fourteen species of large predominantly dark-coloured eagles in the genus Aquila. This genus has a worldwide distribution.

Physical charateristics

This is a large eagle with tawny upperparts and blackish flight feathers and tail. The lower back is very pale. This species is smaller and paler than the Steppe Eagle, although it does not share that species’ pale throat.

Immature birds are less contrasted than adults, but both show a range of variation in plumage colour. Aquila rapax rapax Southern Africa has dark and pale forms. Aquila rapax belisarius from North Africa is darker and slightly larger than its southern cousin. Aquila rapax vindhiana distributed throughout Baluchistan and the Indian sub-Continent are very similar to the two African races but smaller than both. Aquila rapax orientalis in Eastern Europe and Central Asia is darker than either of the African races and larger than both. Aquila rapax nipalensis is distributed farthest east and the largest and darkest of all of the races.

Listen to the sound of Tawny Eagle

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

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 175 cm wingspan max.: 185 cm
size min.: 62 cm size max.: 72 cm
incubation min.: 39 days incubation max.: 44 days
fledging min.: 77 days fledging max.: 84 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 3  


Africa : widespread, also India. The species Aquila rapax is a well distributed bird, ranging from Rumania east through the south Russian, south Siberian and Kirghiz steppes east through Transbaikalia to Mongolia; south through Arabia, India and almost the whole of Africa.


Throughout its range it favours desert, semi-desert, steppes, open savannah, thin bushveld and cultivation steppe from sea level to 8,000 feet (2,400 m)


It breeds in most of Africa both north and south of the Sahara Desert and across tropical southwestern Asia to India. It is a resident breeder building a platform stick nest in the top of a thorny tree, lined with grass and leaves. Sometimes in a crag or on the ground but always in the vicinity of water. Clutch size is 1 to 3 three eggs which are incubated for about 7 weeks. The young fledge after abut 12 weeks. Usually the younger siblings are killed by the elder one, so very often only one chick fledges.

Feeding habits

The diet of the Steppes and Tawny Eagle is largely carrion of all kinds, usually fresh, often the kills of other raptors; mammals up to the size of a rabbit, small to medium rodents; lizards and snakes. Locusts, grasshoppers and flying termites are taken in season, also birds up to the size of guineafowl, particularly injured individuals. It will also pirate food from any raptor larger or smaller than itself and kills its own prey on the ground.

Video Tawny Eagle


copyright: Josep del Hoyo


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 stable, 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 is very large, and hence does not 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.
Tawny Eagle status Least Concern


Resident in most areas but perhaps some seasonal movement into more arid areas in SW and NE Africa during the rainy season; also some birds perform seasonal N-S movements in W Africa. Often mixes with flocks of migrant A. nipalensis. Rare vagrant to Bangladesh, NW Thailand and perhaps Sri Lanka.

Distribution map

Tawny Eagle distribution range map

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