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Bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus) Fact Sheet: Behavior & Ecology

Terathopius ecaudatus, Bateleur

Activity Cycle

Diurnal

  • Active in daylight
    • Spend as much as 80% of daylight hours in flight (Kemp et al. 2013)

Movements and dispersal

Home range

  • Resident pairs hold large ranges (from Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001)
    • Some adults and immatures are nomadic
  • Home range size
    • c. 40 km2, Kruger National Park (KNP) (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001)
    • Juveniles and Subadults range more widely (from Snelling 1969)
    • One individual in KNP ranged > 525 mi2 (>845 km2)

Social Behavior

Often solitary (from Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001)

  • Most often alone
    • Exceptions
      • Mated pairs raise young together
        • Young eaglets may remain with parents for some time after fledging
      • Immatures may congregate in rich feeding areas

Social Interactions

Aggression (from Watson 1989)

  • Juveniles rarely aggressive
  • Common during reproductive periods
    • Adult aggression most intense during egg incubation
      • Adult aggression toward juveniles higher during reproduction
      • Agonism between adults is consistent throughout the year
    • Male and female adults exhibit similar patterns of aggression
      • Agonism between adults tends to occur between individuals of the same sex
  • “Attack” display
    • In flight, aggressor dives toward opponent with talons extended forward
      • Attacker comes within contact distance of its adversary

Affiliative behaviors

  • Allopreening (from Watson 1990b)
    • Breeding partners preen one another
    • Frequency of behavior peaks prior to egg laying
  • Greeting ceremony (from Moreau 1945)
    • A “formal bow”
      • Body dips forward with wings raised
        • Bill drops to the feet
      • Vocal “haow” often accompanies this behavior
      • Click here to see this behavior (begins at 00:48 of "Overview" ARKive video)

Territorial Behavior

Territorial (from Watson 1989)

  • Maintain territory throughout the year
    • Possible reasons for territoriality
      • To ensure sufficient food resources
      • To secure exclusive mating access
      • To ensure protection of the nest-site and offspring
  • Aggressive when breeding
    • Behavior targets adults and juveniles of the same species
    • Typically induce the intruder to gain altitude and fly off
      • Description of aggressive, “attack” display below

Communication

Vocalizations

  • Generally silent (from Kemp et al. 2013)
    • Adults vocalize when anxious or aggressive
    • Call when perched or in flight
  • Basic adult calls (from Brown 1955 unless otherwise noted)
    • “kah-kah-kah” “kau… kroh” or “ka-ow… ka-ow” (Brown 1955; Moreau 1945)
      • May be accompanied by jerking the body up and down with the wings half-spread
        • Often with head thrown back (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001)
      • Given by nesting birds when disturbed
      • A deep and powerful barking sound (Moreau 1945)
    • “shaaaaa-aw” (Kemp et al. 2013)
  • Hatchling vocalizations (from Brown 1955)
    • “twip”
      • Unlike any adult call
      • Described as a “melodious” sound
      • Often uttered continually by young eaglets
    • “kyup-kyup-kyaw-kee-aw-kee-aw…” and “whup-whip-whew-whew-whew-wheeep”
      • A high-pitched, squalling greeting
      • Given by older eaglets
        • Typically in response to the presence of a parent near the nest
    • Audio clips
      • Click here for brief clips of Bateleur calls from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Macaulay Library

Hunting

Terrestrial prey (from Kemp et al. 2013 unless otherwise noted)

  • Search for prey
    • Low, gliding back and forth
      • c. 50 m above the ground
  • Descend in a tight spiral, most often
  • May plummet at great speed to catch prey (Johnston 1902; Moreau 1945)

Interspecies Interactions

Predators

  • Potential predators (from Watson 1990b unless otherwise noted)
    • Terrestrial threats
      • Baboons, genets, African wildcats, and Tree Monitor
    • Avian threats
      • Other eagles, Giant Eagle Owl, and Ground Hornbills

Raptor competitors (from Smeenk 1974 unless otherwise noted)

  • Tawny Eagles consume similar prey (Smeenk 1974; Steyn 1980)
    • Dietary overlap c. 66% of species taken; c. 78% by percentage weight
    • Tawny Eagles appear to dominate most interactions (Steyn 1980)
      • Immature Bateleurs often lose disputes over carrion
  • Martial and African Hawk Eagles
    • Dietary intake overlaps much less than that of the Tawny Eagle
    • Diet more specialized than that of the Bateleur

Kleptoparasitism

  • Bateleurs steal food from other predators

Nest sharing and take over

  • Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus) (from Steyn 1980)
    • Species makes use of abandoned Bateleur nests
    • Lanner falcons are known to harass Bateleur fledglings and take over nests as soon as the young first take flight
  • Verreaux’s (Giant) Eagle Owl (Bubo lacteus)
    • Species makes use of abandoned Bateleur nests (Brown 1965)
  • Wahlberg’s Eagle (Aquila wahlbergi)
    • Bateleurs known to use abandoned nests of this species (Brown 1955)
      • Often without completing much nest-repair

Symbiotic relationships

  • Reports of association with humans (from Dean and MacDonald 1981)
    • Observations of Bateleurs following safaris
      • A single published report of this behavior; significance unclear, possibly to catch animals flushed out by human disturbance

Locomotion

Areal flight

  • Strong and acrobatic in the air (from Brown 1955 unless otherwise noted)
    • Soar
      • Wings held straight in a deep V (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001)
    • Glide with great speed
      • Wings outstretched with wing tips pointed upward (Moreau 1945)
      • Fly low in search of food (Watson and Watson 1985)
        • Generally within 70 m (230 ft) (Watson and Watson 1985)
        • Long, persistent flights, the wings barely moving (Smeenk 1974)
          • The head points downward and is constantly moving (Smeenk 1974)
    • Spin and tumble rapidly in the air
      • Roll sideways with the wings near fully extended
      • May complete several turns in less than 1 second
  • Bodily movements (from Moreau 1945)
    • Swivel body and wings, all in one piece, from side to side
      • Adjustments unlike those of other eagles and hawks which use the tail to maneuver
    • Heavily flap the wings with a strong down-beat
      • Wing flapping infrequent (Steyn 1965)
  • Take off from ground (from Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001)
    • Rapid wing beats

Terrestrial movements

  • Walk

Bateleur Exploring

Bateleur walking on ground

In addition to being acrobatic fliers, Bateleurs are often seen walking and performing a "greeting ceremony" on the ground.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Global. All rights reserved. (Note: This is a cropped image.)

Page Citations

Brown (1955)
Brown (1965)
Dean and MacDonald (1981)
Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2001)
Johnston (1902)
Kemp et al. (2013)
Moreau (1945)
Smeenk (1974)
Snelling (1969)
Steyn (1965)
Steyn (1980)
Watson (1989)
Watson (1990b)
Watson and Watson (1985)

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