Tawny eagles occur from Romania east to southern Russia and Mongolia, and south through India and much of Africa.
Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native ); ethiopian (Native )
Aquila rapax plumage varies from very dark brown to light brown shades with blackish flight feathers and tail, light colored stripes or bars on the wings, and a pale lower back. Tawny eagles with darker shades of brown generally have tawny coloration on the body, distinguishing them from similar species of eagles, which lack any tawny coloration. The eyes are brown and the beak is yellow with a dark tip. Females are typically larger than males, otherwise the sexes are similar. Immature tawny eagles are paler and more streaked than are adults, sometimes "blonde" (white). Tawny eagles were thought to be synonymous with steppe eagles (Aquila nipalensis). Steppe eagles are larger than tawny eagles (up to twice the size in weight) and are darker in color.
Range mass: 1950 to 2500 g.
Range length: 65 to 72 cm.
Range wingspan: 1.72 to 1.85 m.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: female larger
Tawny eagles favor arid climates but occupy a wide range of habitats including deserts, steppes, open savannah, open grassland, mountainous regions, and cultivated steppes. The tend to avoid dense forests.
Range elevation: 600 to 4500 m.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; savanna or grassland ; mountains
Other Habitat Features: agricultural
Habitat and Ecology
Behaviour The species is resident across the Afrotropical, Indomalayan and fringing Palearctic regions (34°N to 31°S) but occurs in discrete populations. It is common across its range, and generally sedentary, although individuals are nomadic and will occasionally wander long distances. In West Africa individuals will make short distance seasonal movements south into the damper woodlands during October – November and return in April (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001). Habitat The species occupies dry open habitats from sea level to 3000m, and will occupy both woodland and wooded savannah. In India it can be found near cultivated areas, settlements and slaughterhouses (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001). Diet The species has a wide prey base, taking mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, and occasionally fish and amphibians. It will also regularly consume carrion and pirate other raptors’ prey (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001). Breeding Site Nesting occurs on a large stick platform that may also incorporate animal bones, and is located on top of tall isolated trees or occasionally on top of a pylon. The breeding season in Africa spans March to August in the north, October to June in the West, April to January in central and southern areas, and year-round (but mainly May-November) in Kenya. In India the season spans November to August (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001).
Tawny eagles are generalist carnivores, they will eat insects, carrion, and small animals such as rodents. They are the only type of eagle that scavenge from humans regularly. Tawny eagles are also well known for robbing prey from other raptors, even birds much larger than they are.
Animal Foods: mammals; carrion ; insects
Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates)
Tawny eagles are primary predators. They are also piratical and opportunistic. They will steal prey from other animals as well as scavenge already dead prey.
Nest predation by crows occurs more regularly in the nests of tawny eagles than in other species, possibly due to the openness of the nest site. There is very little other information on other predators or behaviors to prevent predation in tawny eagles. Tawny eagles are large birds of prey once they reach adulthood, they are probably do not have many predators.
- crows (Corvus)
Life History and Behavior
Tawny eagles are generally fairly silent, except when aggravated or displaying. Their call can be described as a sharp kwok kwok. Occasionally tawny eagles will call during acts of piracy. Females may call from the nest, soliciting food. In general, vision is acute among eagles, and is likely to be their most important sense. They are able to see prey clearly at distances and up close. Their acute vision may also help in establishing territories. Hearing is also an important sense for tawny eagles, as it helps them locate prey when they are hunting.
Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
The lifespan of adult eagles is difficult to determine in the wild. The oldest golden eagles, also in the genus Aquila, are recorded to have lived for sixty years. The average lifespan of golden eagles is 18 years, and they live approximately 40 to 45 years in captivity. The lifespan of tawny eagles may be similar to these values. In East Africa it is estimated that the lifespan of tawny eagles is 16 years on average, assuming that there is a 75% mortality rate before sexual maturity. Eagles live much longer in captivity, rarely reaching the same ages in the wild due to the high mortality rate within the first twelve months of life.
Status: wild: 40.3 (high) years.
Status: wild: 16 years.
Status: captivity: 40 to 45 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Tawny eagles are monogamous, pairing for life. Behavior prior to and during mating varies for this species, but usually involves undulating displays made by the male followed by mutual soaring displays. Epigamic display, display that occurs during breeding, may involve high circling, alone or in pairs, over the nesting site. The male may perform a series of "pot hooks" which involves a series of gradual dives and swoops, with little to no wing flapping. The female may turn over and present her claws in response to the male swooping over her. Males and females may lock claws in flight. Actual mating usually occurs at or near the nesting site.
Mating System: monogamous
Tawny eagles breed once yearly. Breeding season varies by geographic location, but typically occurs from April to July. Males and females both build the nest. Males collect nest material, while females assemble the nest. Nests are usually in trees or telephone poles and are occupied for one to three years before they are abandoned. Female tawny eagles lay one to three eggs at three day intervals and incubate them for approximately 45 days. Although males primarily feed offspring while they are young, both parents bring food during fledging, which occurs at approximately 76 to 85 days old. Tawny eagles begin to fly around ten weeks, but chicks remain in the nest for approximately 5 more weeks after their first flight and remain reliant on their parents for food during this period. After that, the young become independent. Siblings are aggressive towards one another, many times resulting in the death of the younger hatchling, usually within the first few days of hatching.
Breeding interval: Tawny eagles breed once yearly.
Breeding season: The breeding season of tawny eagles is generally from April to July.
Range eggs per season: 1 to 3.
Range time to hatching: 39 to 45 days.
Range fledging age: 76 to 85 days.
Average fledging age: 84 days.
Average time to independence: 120 days.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 3 to 4 years.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 3 to 4 years.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous
Female tawny eagles generally incubate the eggs, occasionally assisted by males. For the first ten days females remain by the nest, brooding day and night, and males may also brood or shade the chicks from the sun. After 7 days females leave the chicks for extended periods, but stay near the nest to protect them. They continue to perch near the nest for approximately forty days. At fifty days, neither males nor females are near the nest during the day. Males brings most of the food for the chicks, but may be assisted by females after fifty days. Chicks make their first flight around 84 days old and may remain in the nest for up to forty days after the first flight. However, some young remain with the parents until the following breeding season.
Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female)
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Aquila rapax
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
The current IUCN Red List status of this species is "lower risk/least concern."
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 2012Least Concern
Status in Egypt
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Tawny eagles are piratical and steal and scavenge food from other animals and humans. They may occasionally take domestic livestock, although not often enough to have a significant negative impact on humans.
Tawny eagles are important members of the ecosystems in which they live.
The tawny eagle (Aquila rapax) is a large bird of prey. Like all eagles, it belongs to the family Accipitridae. It was once considered to be closely related to the migratory steppe eagle, Aquila nipalensis, and the two forms have previously been treated as conspecific. They were split based on pronounced differences in morphology and anatomy; two molecular studies, each based on a very small number of genes, indicate that the species are distinct but disagree over how closely related they are.
It breeds in most of Africa both north and south of the Sahara Desert and across tropical southwestern Asia to India. It is a resident breeder which lays 1–3 eggs in a stick nest in a tree, crag or on the ground.
This is a large eagle although it is one of the smaller species in the Aquila genus. It is 60–75 cm (24–30 in) in length and has a wingspan of 159–190 cm (63–75 in). Weight can range from 1.6 to 3 kg (3.5 to 6.6 lb). It has tawny upperparts and blackish flight feathers and tail. The lower back is very pale. This species is smaller and paler than the Steppe eagle, although it does not share that species' pale throat.
Immature birds are less contrasted than adults, but both show a range of variation in plumage colour.
The tawny eagle's diet is largely fresh carrion of all kinds, but it will kill small mammals up to the size of a rabbit, reptiles and birds up to the size of guineafowl. It will also steal food from other raptors.
The call of the tawny eagle is a crow-like barking, but it is rather a silent bird except in display.
With a black-backed jackal road traffic victim in Ethiopia
Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park, England
- BirdLife International (2013). "Aquila rapax". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Clark, W. S. (1992): The taxonomy of Steppe and Tawny Eagles, with criteria for separation of museum specimens and live eagles. Bull. B.O.C. 112: 150–157
- Olson, Storrs L. (1994): Cranial osteology of Tawny and Steppe Eagles Aquila rapax and A. nipalensis. Bull. B.O.C. 114: 264–267
- Sangster, George; Knox, Alan G.; Helbig, Andreas J. & Parkin, David T. (2002): Taxonomic recommendations for European birds. Ibis 144(1): 153–159 doi:10.1046/j.0019-1019.2001.00026.x PDF fulltext
- Raptors of the World by Ferguson-Lees, Christie, Franklin, Mead & Burton. Houghton Mifflin (2001), ISBN 0-618-12762-3.
-  (2011).
- Tawny eagle, Arkive