• The Missing Black Eagle

    Posted on July 31, 2013 by in bird watching
    While one Black Eagle guards the nest, the other Black Eagle hunts for food.

    Black Eagles hunt Rock Hyrax – their preferred food. They have to roam far and wide to find suitable prey.

    Those of you who know us will understand just how passionate we are about the creatures – big and small, legged and non-legged, plumed and non-plumed -who call Lammergeier Highlands Reserve their home. Well, shock and horror. We caught wind via the small-town-rumour-mill that a local chap shot a Black Eagle in our area.  The story went that he, who should ideally be named and shamed, wanted to have the Black Eagle mounted to add to his collection ‘trophies’.

    Needless to say, this piece of bad news was followed by Kevin and I immediately paying a tense visit to the nesting pair on the Reserve.

    Once there, our hearts sank. We could only catch sight of a single Black Eagle.  The other mate was nowhere to be seen.

    The Black Eagle Pair on Lammergeier Highlands Reserve

    Frankly, I was more than a little dismayed at the hunter’s compete lack of insight into this magnificent bird.  Black Eagles mate for life and, if indeed the Black Eagle he so cruelly shot had to be one of the Lammergeier Highlands Reserve Black Eagles, it would mean the end of a nesting site that had been treasured by us for many years. And we would not have been the only conservationists to feel the loss. Many birding enthusiasts return to Lammergeier Highlands Reserve every year to watch our Black Eagle pair as part of their bird watching trip. We felt that we had to do something…anything!

    Escalating the Black Eagle Hunt

    I called the Cape Vulture Society. They informed us that in South Africa, and specifically in the Eastern Cape, Black Eagles don’t share the same vulnerability status as some of our other species (Cape Vulture & Secretary Bird).  In other words, it is quite legal to shoot them. In my mind’s eye, I had already seen the perpetrator being led away in chains for his eco-crime.  This was not to be. I could feel the frustration and worry mounting. So much of our life’s work goes into ecotourism and the protection and of all nature’s creatures and their habitats. I felt that even if the Black Eagle isn’t considered endangered yet, it shouldn’t translate into an ‘open season’ type of situation. It is, after all, our watch. And hunting birds of prey surely isn’t the example we should set today for the adults of tomorrow.

     And finally…Relief

    We doggedly continued our daily visits to the nesting area and day after day we could only spot a single Black Eagle. Still, we kept our hopes up as it is typical for one

    A black eagle pair mates for life.

    A Black Eagle pair mates for life. That is why the news of the hunt left us concerned for the nesting pair on Lammergeier Highlands Reserve.

    Black Eagle to hunt while the other one guards the nest. Then, last Saturday afternoon, while enjoying our usual picnic spot at Slidy Pool with some out-of-town friends, we saw the miracle we were hoping for: A change of the guard with both birds appearing at the nest. Our pair was indeed still a pair.

    The moment was bitter-sweet for us.  We and our bird watching visitors can still enjoy the beauty of the Black Eagle soaring in flight. The young Eaglet in the nest will have a better chance at survival as both parents are intact. But sadly, somewhere – not very far away – a Black Eagle is now alone after losing its life partner to the ignorance of man.

    *Thank you to BirdLife South Africa for the information on our threatened species.


3 Responses so far.

  1. That is really good news.

    I was truly annoyed when I heard the news that “he-who-shall-remain-unnamed-and-unshamed-for-now” killed a Black Eagle and that you were worried that it could be one of yours.

    I’m pleased that they are alive and taking care of the little Eaglet. All’s well that ends well. Looking forward to our next visit to beautiful Lammergeier Highlands Reserve 🙂

  2. Tharina Joubert says:

    Glad that your Black Eagles are okay! Really wish we had laws to stop stupid hunting like that.

  3. Eksteen de Villiers says:

    Cool! When I come down there in December I’d love to see them again. Happy to know that neither of them turned out to be a victim of the stupid notion that a dead Black Eagle is a trophy.