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Martial eagle

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Martial eagle
Martial Eagle.jpg
Scientific Classification
Binomial Name

Polemaetus bellicosus

Image Description
Martial Eagle Flying.jpg

The Martial Eagle is a species of eagle known by the scientific name Polemaetus bellicosus. It is a powerful bird of prey and the largest eagle in South Africa. The habitat of this bird ranges throughout Southern and sub-Saharan Africa. Semi-desert, grassland, open woodland, and wooded savanna, etc are among the most preferred. Kruger National Park, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in South Africa and the Chobe National Park in Botswana, the protected areas are where the eagle is more common. The Martial Eagle mostly nests in the largest tree in an area. [1] Remarkably, its territory can extend over 50 square miles. The diet availability of the bird is astonishing, being able to take mammals, reptiles, livestock, and even other birds, etc, using their incredible eyes and flying speed. They are very powerful warriors that one Martial Eagle can knock a man off his feet and break a man’s arm with only one huge talon which is designed for grasping and killing. [2] The vertebrate frequently attacks the livestock animals (lambs, goats, poultry, etc). Therefore, the farmers have been prosecuting them, some even are shooting and trapping, and poisoning (led to the decrease of its population). [3]

  • God created the Martial Eagle on the fifth day of creation, as stated in Genesis 1:31. (God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day) [4]


Martial Eagle closeup

The Martial Eagle lengthens approximately 32 inches long and possesses a wingspan of about 6 feet 4 inches, weighing almost 14 pounds. They have white legs with enormous talons for catching and killing prey. [5] The feathersof the adult have dark brown upperparts, head and upper chest. The body is white lined with black. The undersides are brown, with pale flight plumages, lined with black as well. The female is frequently larger and has more streaked lines than the male. The immature stage of the eagle has paler wing above and white below. [6] They are endotherms, which mean that they can maintain their constant body temperature.

Circulatory system – Class Aves, including eagles, must have extremely efficient circulatory and respiratory system in order to aid them in running, swimming, and flight. Birds enjoy four chambered heart, 2 atria and 2 ventricles, also called ‘the avian circulatory system’, which transports nutrients, oxygen and carbon dioxide, waste products, hormones, and heat throughout their body. The right ventricle drains blood to the lungs as the left, the walls of which are thicker and more muscular, pumps to the rest of the body. They have larger heart than the mammalians. It is also proven that their heart pumps more blood per unit time than mammalian hearts. [7]

Respiratory system – In another word, the avian respiratory system, brings oxygen from the air to the body tissues and eradicates carbon dioxide. The avian respiratory system additionally includes small lungs with nine air sacs (one interclavicular sac, two cervical, anterior thoracic, posterior thoracic, and two abdominal sacs) that not only function as respiration but also assist them to maintain constant body temperature. They are capable of breathing through the mouth or the nostrils. Once the air is consumed, it goes through the pharynx, and into the trachea, which is divided into primary and para bronchi. The walls of these bronchi have numerous air capillaries. During inhalation, air is drawn into the posterior air sacs and into the lungs all at once, into the parabronchi and then to the anterior air sacs. When they exhale, air is carried out of the posterior air sacs into and through parabronchi, also out of the anterior air sacs and out of the trachea. [8]

Digestive system – In the avian digestive system. birds must continuously take in food particles because of their extreme high metabolic rates. Moreover, they are required to maintain their body as light as possible. Therefore, their digestive system needs to be as efficient as possible. Eagles, one of the bird of prey, have diurnal raptors and use their pointed, shark bills to tear muscle-like particles. Digestion begins as the food passes down the esophagus, crop (enlargement of the esophagus that stores the food until it can be transported into the stomach). They uniquely own two-part stomach, the proventriculus (produces ]]digestive]] juice) and gizzard (muscular and thick-walled, containing sand with which they grind the food against, mixing it with the digestive juice). The food is then carried into the intestine, where the final digestion occurs and the nutrition is absorbed. Unneeded particles are excreted through the cloaca. [9]

Nervous system – The avian nervous system is made up of central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), and peripheral nervous system (cranial and spinal nerves, autonomic nerves and ganglia, and sense organs). The nervous system senses the information about the environment, it lets them respond to it, save it, and learn from it. The brain consists of Medulla, part of the brain, helps control heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure. Optic lobe, part of the brain that receives impulses from the eyes, Cerebellum, part of the brain that coordinates muscle activity, and cerebrum that controls voluntary muscle activity. In addition, they use tactile organs to sense the touch receptors. [10]

Skeletal system – Is the main source of protection, support, movement, calcium storage and the production of red blood cells. It also shares an interesting relationship with its respiratory system. The skeletal system of class Aves mainly is made up of the bones (they are hollow and filled with air spaces connected to the respiratory system for the extra assistance for flight), skull (the bones of the skull are normally fused granting protection to the brain when being light weight.), neck (crucial for body maintenance and eyesight. They necessitate flexibility and high quality head movement since they have stationary eyes and need to focus on object at diverse distances), thorax (uncinate processes help during the powerful strokes used in flight), sternum (breastbone), pectoral girdle (consists of the sternum, clavicle, coracoids, scapula), pelvic girdle (provides support for legs for take-off and landing, etc), wing (modified for flight. It has humerus, pulls the flight muscles, radius and ulna for the mid-wing, outer wing called hand bones are for strength and feather support. Pollex helps the air flow around the wing), and finally leg or foot. All the body system in birds somehow supply care for the flight, running, landing, take-off, and swimming. [11]


Immature Martial Eagle

They accomplish sexual reproduction in a wet season, the earlyand even late dry season. The male would cry "kloo-ee, kloo-ee, kloo-ee" voice. (also during the mating season in order to attract a female) [12]

The aerie of the Martial Eagle is customarily created near the largest tree in area at an altitude of 20 to 80 ft above ground. They use the nests repeatedly, resulting the nests to be very large (from 4 to 6 feet in diameter, 4 feet deep) and for more successive breeding. The nests are constructed with large sticks that lengthen approximately 1.5 inches, lined with green leaves.

Only one or two eggs are laid in winter. The egg, which is white with light brown, is nurtured and even fed (until 60 days old, well feathered and until it is able to tear the prey itself) by the female for around 40 to 50 days. After that, the feeble and nearly quiescent young hatches and carefully is taken care of during the first few days, however, the female does not look after later than the 14th day except at night. The young grows more active after around 3 weeks. The plumage begin to show at about day 32, eventually covering the bird entirely on day 70, and at last it will be able to fly at about 100th day. On the other hand, the male simply stays still during the incubation. However, during the early fledgling period, the female settles near the nest while the male hunts. This process will be carried on for only about 50 days, after which the female begins to hunt herself and the male rarely appears.

The immature may choose to settle in the nest for another short period of up to six months and then flies away. [13]


Martial Eagle habitat range

The habitat of the Martial Eagle extends throughout Southern and sub-Saharan Africa. Its most preferred habitat is wherever the environment is favorable, which is semi-desert, grassland, open woodland, and wooded savanna. However, in protected areas, such as Kruger National Park and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in South Africa and the Chobe National Park in Botswana, the greater population of Martial Eagle can be found. Although they avoid dense forests, they ultimately require a tree to build a nest in. [[14]] The bird can reign an area ranging up to 50 square miles. [15] This vertebrate is an extreme carnivore, which means that they mainly feed on other animals and they are very skilled at hunting that the humans were even intimidated and angered. [16]

The diet availability greatly differs, they can feed on guineafowl, francolins, bustards, poultry, European Stork, most mammals (such as hyrax, antelopes). Frequently, even large animals like Impala calf, mongoose, monkeys, hares, hyraxes, goats, lambs (many livestock animals), and many birds are chosen (also reptiles, etc). Accordingly, this carnivorediets on almost whatever is available. [17]

The Martial Eagle seeks food using its amazing eyesight and hearing abilities, regularly while it is high above its territory in the sky. when it finds a prey, it comes down with amazing speed, and attacks the prey. [18]

Because the vertebrate often harms the livestock animals of farmers, it suffers persecutions from them. They undergo such as shooting and trapping, poisoning, drowning in sheer-walled reservoirs, electrocution on power poles, habitat alteration and degradation. The population of the species greatly decreased because of these, especially the poisoning, which also causes problems in small farming livestock [19] As a result, in the last three generations, the population of the bird in South Africa dropped by 20 percent. Particularly, places where Martial Eagle habitually encounters men exacerbated the most. [20] Meanwhile, in certain regions, humans derive their lives for traditional medicine. [21]

Hunting Skill and Diet Availability

Martial Eagle eating an antelope

The Martial Eagle is the largest eagle in Africa (weighs about 14 pounds, having a wingspan of 6 feet 4 inches) and a tremendous sovereign that it can rule a territory extending up to 50 square miles, where it flies around to keep its eye on. Astonishingly, they are capable of hunting for days in one area before moving on to another. They are unbelievably powerful that it can knock a man off his feet and break a man’s arm with only one talon (foot). The talons are huge, created for grasping (the bird of prey), catching, and killing.

As soon as the bird finds a prey, it dives at an outstanding speed [22] (eagles are said to fly at 20 to 60 mph at normal flight and dive over 100 mph, however, the Martial Eagle could surpass the number) [23], finishing the prey with its powerful talons. Mainly, the Martial Eagle hunts from far distance, taking it by surprise, but rarely on land. [24]

The diet availability of this species is absolutely remarkable. Even if it mainly feeds on medium sized animals such as francolins, guineafowl, bustards, it is also able to take out stork and serval cats. In mammals, they mostly eat hares hyraxes, mongooses, monkeys, impalas. Moreover, the bird takes reptiles (snakes, large lizards, etc), and also other birds. [25]

However, because the Martial Eagle even attacks livestock (poultry, lambs, goats, etc) from time to time, the farmers began prosecuting them. [26]


Closeup of Martial Eagle's Eyes

All eagle species, including the Martial Eagle are well-known for their incredible eyesight. In fact, they are capable of observing forward and side simultaneously since their eyes contain special ability that enable them to see two main focuses. Bald eagles, known to eat fish, can observe the movement of fish from several hundred feet above. All eagles have inner eyelid called a nictitating membrane (for blinking). The membrane is transparent and slides front to back within the eye for eliminating dirt. The sharpness of their eyes exceed four times than that of a human’s perfect vision, which means that they can recognize an animal from a mile away while flying.[27]

Population Decrease

For years the powerful warrior Martial Eagle has attacked the livestock portions of farmers. Consequently, the species undergoes persecutions, including shooting and trapping, poisoning, drowning in sheer-walled reservoirs, collision with powerlines, habitat alteration and degradation. Especially, shooting and trapping, and poisoning, which also triggers problems in small farming fields, are among the deadliest prosecutions. In certain regions, they are taken for traditional medical supplies. [28] Cruelly, the population of the bird has dropped 20 percent in the last three generations in South Africa (mostly within regions with many farmers). The bird is now on the endangered organism list. [29]


The Martial Eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus) in Kruger National Park



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