Raptors of Mpala

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Photographed in situ [1]

A tawny eagle (Aquila rapax) stretches apart the membranes from fetal tissue of a cow, likely the remains of a premature birth. Although not the best of circumstances from the cattle’s perspective, it was amazing to observe two tawny eagles up close. I’ve always loved raptors, though most of the time I only spot them soaring high in the sky. So far in Kenya I’ve gotten the closest to perching fish eagles, Verreaux’s eagles, and chanting goshawks, while I’ve struggled to view martial eagles and a brown snake-eagle. Tawny eagles feed on a variety of prey, including rodents, hares, birds, lizards, and snakes, and like many raptors they will consume carrion when given the opportunity. Last week we were fortunate to see a hooded vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus) along with another tawny eagle, scavenging on a dead cow at the same boma. The pale morph of the tawny eagle in particular was one of the most beautiful raptors I’ve ever seen.

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Photographed in situ [1]
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Hooded vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus); photographed after pursuit [3]
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Photographed in situ [1]

An eastern chanting goshawk (Melierax poliopterus) preying upon a small mammal, probably a young hare or rodent. This species was the most common bird of prey we encountered in central Kenya. They prefer a solitary lifestyle, sitting atop acacia trees to survey their surroundings and locate prey. Only once I spotted a goshawk sustaining itself in place mid-air with constant wingbeats. As its head scanned the ground beneath, it would periodically swoop downwards and fly up to the same position. During the breeding season, male chanting goshawks are well known for producing melodious calls— similar in pattern to others in the Accipitridae family, but having less screech and a much more ’round’ timbre.

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Gabar goshawk (Micronisus gabar); photographed after pursuit [3]

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