Tawny Eagle - Aquila rapax - 'Keela'


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Keela is our Lady at The Exmoor Owl & Hawk Centre.  She is so majestic, loyal, and intelligent.  She enjoys her status and position here, and loves giving a great display - the more visitors we have the better display she seems to present.  We think of Keela as our mascot, and hope she bodes well for 2015!

The Tawny Eagle is a large bird of prey, about 62-72cm in length, and has a wingspan of 165-185cm, weighing 1.6-2.4kg.  Like all eagles it belongs ot the family Accipitridae.  It was once considered to be closely related to the migratory Steppe Eagle, Aquila nipalensis, and the two have often been described as one!  However, it has since been found that there are differences in morphology and anatomy - probably they occurred as a result of convergent evolution in two totally different areas.

The Tawny Eagle breed in most of Africa, both north and south of the Sahara Desert, and across to SW Asia and India.  It prefers open dry habitats, such as desert, semi-desert and savannah. Its breeding season usually occurs in the dry season, with amazing aerial displays.  It is a resident breeder, non-migratory, laying 1-3 eggs in a large flat stick nest lined with grass and leaves in a tree, crag or on the ground.  When the chicks hatch the eldest chick may kill the youngsters in order to gain more food.  A single nest may be used repeatedly for many years, so long as the crown of the tree remains unaltered.  

In the wild the Tawny Eagle is most frequently seen soaring high in the air, or perched at the top of a tree, scanning the ground for prey.  When Keela is flown here in the afternoons, she too will display this same kind of behaviour flying almost out of sight to the top of the hill, or sitting proudly on her favourite post or branch of the surrounding trees.  Sometimes she collects twigs, in the hope of nest building!

These eagles are formidable hunters, tackling mammals as large as hares, or even dikdik or springbok, but more likely birds, lizard or carrion, sometimes stealing food from other raptors and hornbills.

Tawny Eagles have a relatively long lifespan, reaching up to 16 years in the wild although Keela has been here at the Centre and living in such a protected environment we would expect that her lifespan will be a lot longer.  She has been with us at the Centre since 2001.