Verreaux’s eagles’ hunting territories
Generally, Verreaux’s eagles’ hunting territories vary in size that is largely dependable on prey availability, quality and density and an average range may be about 15-25km².
However, in an urban environment this can change drastically as for instance at Roodekrans and over a 3½ year period, we managed to establish through farmer/land owner/smallholder communication that in 2003 this pairs’ territory size was approx. 250-280km²…far greater than eagles in the wild.
With the MF pair, it is difficult to establish as we aren’t 100% certain if this was the pair that hailed from Suikerbosrand, and although it could quite possibly be…then this pair would certainly outstrip the Roodekrans pair because just flying to SNR from MF is a distance of 29km as the crow flies. We do know that this pair has been seen at the AfriSam Eikenhof Quarry west of the R82, then returning via the KNR, heading south-easterly towards Eikenhof and flying over the R550 heading towards Walkerville and Paardeberg some 25km south of the ANP and heading in a northerly direction returning to MF…constituting a total distance of some 400km². As we aren’t quite certain of their overall territorial size, I am positive that with the telemetry that is being made available to us this year, that in the not too distant future we will become privy to their territorial boundary extent.
Fortunately natural prey in the form of Rock Hyrax (Procavia capensis) aka dassie, makes up at least 97% of the MF eagle pairs’ prey species, with Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida meleagris), Jameson’s Red Rock Rabbit (Pronolagus randensis), Scrub Hare (Lepus saxatilis), Francolin spp, Mongoose spp and occasional Vervet monkey (Cercopithecus aethiops) making up the deficit.
The digestive system, the crop is an expanded muscular pouch near the gullet or throat. It is a part of the digestive tract, essentially an enlarged part of the esophagus. As with most other organisms that have a crop, it is used to temporarily store food for later digestion. The crop can expand a rather remarkable amount, to the point where it can look like it may have swallowed a tennis ball.
In flight it is quite easy to identify if the eagles have recently had a meal or not as the bulge will be shown quite prominent.
With several hunting techniques, it sometimes attacks from a perch or from a tremendous stoop from a soaring position, but usually a planned sneak approach is used. Once prey has been seen from a soaring position, it drops out of view of the quarry behind an outcrop or ridge, suddenly appearing in a surprise swoop to make its kill. Pairs will hunt cooperatively, one bird flying past sunbathing hyrax that take cover initially before emerging to scold it; at this point the second bird attacks them from behind. Animals are also caught in tree tops; a young baboon and hyrax have been taken in this way.