The African Fish Eagle Versus The Bald Eagle

It’s been a while since I posted anything, I know. Well, school happened and everything that comes with it; assignments, continuous assessment tests and the whats not. Enough with the  routine life, right.

Recently (for quite some time) I came across two raptors, which in my opinion, look similar but are very different; The African fish eagle and the Bald eagle. Though, the main difference would be one is found in Africa (African Fish eagle) and the other in North America (Bald eagle). I have not yet come to see the latter  and I’m still amazed by the similarities and differences of the two.  If approached before now and asked to differentiate them, I would say they are one and the same thing.

Let me start with the one i’m most familiar with, The African Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer).  “Keeper of the waters”

This eagle occurs throughout much of Sub-Saharan Africa. Mostly found near lakes, rivers, swamps, mangrove lagoons, and dams. Frequently seen sitting high on top of a tall tree where it has a good view of the stretches of the water sources which are its territory.

It’s among the family of sea eagles.  The female is larger than the male, and its also  a non-migratory bird. They have a very distinctive call (Voice of Africa) which once heard cannot be forgotten.

The African Fish eagle has a  white head, breast and tail except for the featherless face which is yellow.Its eyes are dark brown in color. In contrast with the white part of the head and tail, the wings are black or chestnut in color which are distinctive. Its tail is short and small squared and its beak being  curved down, sharp and pointed. The feet are large with each holding three toes pointing forward and one pointing back. The feet are also covered with thick scaly skin, yellow in color and have strong and curved claws.


The African fish eagle’s diet majorly consists of fish, dead or alive, but are also opportunistic feeders as they may feed on water birds. It generally doesn’t catch-all its fish by itself as it may steal from other birds such as herons and pelicans.

It is mostly diurnal with a good sense of sight and hearing which are very effective in the catching of prey. They are   monogamous and are mostly seen in pairs, whether in or outside the breeding season, and mate for life. The pairs tend to stay within sight of each other.

It is also very territorial where the size of each territory depends on food availability and is heavily guarded by both partners, the female being the most aggressive.

The conservation status of the African Fish eagle is of least concern. πŸ™‚

The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Like the African Fish eagle, the Bald eagle is also a sea eagle. It is  found in North America with two known sub species; The Southern Bald eagle and The Northern Bald eagle. Found near large bodies of open water such as seacoasts and large lakes which have an abundance of food supply.

The Bald eagle has a white head, neck and tail with a yellow beak and feet. The breast and back are blackish-brown in color. The tail is moderately long and wedge-shaped. The feet are featherless with short and powerful toes and large talons. It’s beak is large and curved. The females are slightly larger than the males.


Bald eagles are good swimmers and soar to greater heights  rising with thermal air on hot days and also on up-drafts generated by terrain such as valley ridges.

The Bald eagle has an excellent eyesight and sense of smell. They mostly feed on fish alive or as carrion but are also opportunistic feeders. They  hunt during the day.

Bald eagles are monogamous and will pair for life. Bonding between pairs occurs through intricate aerial acrobatics.  Together the couple builds massive nests by creating a web of sticks in an old tall tree or sometimes a cliff near rivers or coasts.

It is of Least concern as labeled by the IUCN. πŸ™‚


12 thoughts on “The African Fish Eagle Versus The Bald Eagle

  1. thanks for the information though there is not much difference shown. I think the breast of the fish eagle is white and bald eagle has no patch. another the upper beak of the fish eagle is black whereas the bald eagle has a yellow beak

    1. I agree with anonymous, 05/15/14, that you didn’t mention the difference. From the pictures, the fish eagle seems to have more white on it’s head extending down the breast as a bib and further down the back than the bald eagle. Otherwise your descriptions are very much the same. Elaine T., Lebanon, NH

  2. Hi LkoiV, lovely post with lost of very interesting comments. One point which I would like to bring your attention to. The Fish Eagle although large, does not quite compare in size to some of the other birds of prey in Southern Africa. e.g. Verreaux’s Eagle (African Black Eagle), the Martial Eagle and the Lammergeyer (Bearded Vulture) to name but three. Our African Fish Eagle however, remains our most striking and beautiful bird of prey. Wonderful article and keep up the good work.

    1. I approve with you Gary, the fish eagle is the most beautiful bird and is actually my favourite bird over all other birds, I even had Warren Carry paint me a picture of one, and nice review of the two.

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