The crowned eagle is a large bird of prey native to sub-Saharan Africa. In South Africa, its range is limited to the eastern areas. Its habitat consists mainly of scrub and forest. The crowned eagle is the only extant member of the genus Stephanoaetus.
A second species, the Malagasy crowned eagle became extinct following the arrival of human settlers in Madagascar. Due to their ecological similarities, the crowned eagle is the best African analogue of the harpy. Due to its aggressive and adaptable behavior, this eagle is well equipped to live and hunt in forests.
Precisely due to its high adaptability to different habitats, until recently it was believed that the species was not affected by particular dangers for survival and that by the standards of large forest raptors it was a relatively stable species.
However, their numbers are now thought to be declining much more than previously perceived due to near-epidemic destruction of native African rainforest. It is listed by the IUCN as Near Threatened.
Crowned eagle habitat is being destroyed and its survival is at risk
Widespread in sub-Saharan African countries, from Ghana to Sudan, the natural habitat of this species varies from forests with heavy rainfall to open savannahs.
Although the crowned eagle's long tail gives it an overall length of up to 35 inches, the crowned eagle is less massive and has a significantly smaller wingspan than the larger African eagle, the martial eagle. However, it is considered the most powerful African eagle, considering the weight of its usual prey.
In fact, these birds are capable of preying on large mammals such as the striped tragelaphus, which can weigh up to 66 pounds. The crowned eagle has unusually large claws and very strong paws, with which it is able to crush the skull of its prey.
It is also a very aggressive bird; under the nest of one of these birds were found the remains of a large male Moorish monkey, weighing 24 pounds. At least 90% of this bird's diet consists of mammals; its prey varies from population to population showing marked regional differences.
Throughout its range it mainly feeds on small ungulates (such as duikers, chevrons), rock hyraxes and small primates. Large birds and lizards are rarely preyed upon.