Long-crested Eagle

(Lophaetus occipitalis)

dummy - Long-crested Eagle Eastern Shores - iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa - 04-Nov-14

The long-crested eagle (Lophaetus occipitalis) is a small species of eagle common to large parts of sub-Saharan Africa. The long crest on the head makes this eagle an unmistakable bird. Body is uniform dark brown to black in color, with a white and black barred tail, and white feathered legs. Eyes are conspicuously yellow. When in flight, underwings are mostly white with black markings. Females are generally larger than males, but with a shorter crest. Length reaches 53-58 cm (21-23 in). Juveniles are similar, but lighter in color, and with a shorter crest.

Diet and habitat

Long-crested eagles are found in various habitats, but prefer open woodlands and forested areas close to wetlands and rivers. It is also quite commonly found in plantations and agricultural landscapes. Main diet consists of small rodents and shrews, but will also feed on small lizards, snakes, fish, and even fruit. It scans for prey while perched, before swooping down to catch its prey. It is not uncommon to see long-crested eagles perched on poles looking for prey alongside highways.


It is not a migratory bird, but might move longer distances due to local habitat changes. It breeds at the end of the dry season or during the wet season, with timing most likely coinciding with peaks in rodent numbers. Nests are built in tall trees, either in forks or on large, but concealed, branches. The female lays one to two eggs, which she incubates for around 42 days. She remains with the hatchlings for most of the first few weeks while the male brings food. After three weeks, the female gradually takes over most of the hunting. Only one chick generally survives, with the stronger most likely killing the weaker in clutches of two eggs. Chicks leave the nest after 53-58 days, and will be dependent on both parents for another two weeks.


The long-crested eagle is common throughout its range and its numbers are believed to be increasing. It has adapted well to human agriculture and plantation practices and there are no threats to the species. It is listed as least concern on the IUCN Red List.

Least Concern - Long-crested Eagle