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Bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus) Fact Sheet: Behavior & Ecology

Terathopius ecaudatus, Bateleur

Activity Cycle


  • 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



  • 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


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


  • 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


  • 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


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 Wildlife Alliance. 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)

SDZWA Library Links