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African Fish-eagle Haliaeetus vocifer
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.


Behaviour This is an afrotropical species (17°N to 35°S), common to abundant throughout its range except in waterless areas. It is generally sedentary but can be nomadic in response to resource shortages (e.g., drought, flood or prey scarcity), and has been recorded traveling up to 200km from the natal site (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001). Habitat The species occupies a range of aquatic habitats from sea level to 4000m, ideally areas of calm water, such as swamps, lakes, rivers, floodplains and estuaries. Juveniles that are dispersing can cross vast dry areas and will roost and feed on carcasses en-route (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001; del Hoyo et al., 1994). Diet The species’ diet consists primarily of fish, but it will also take other available taxa as well as carrion when prey is scarce. Juveniles are known to feed at large mammal carcasses alongside vultures and Tawny Eagles (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001). Breeding Site The species nests near water, in tall acacias or other suitable trees, and occasionally on rock outcrops. Nests are up to 1.5m in diameter and are composed of sticks and papyrus, lined with rush heads and occasionally, weaver nests. Breeding can occur at any time within Equatorial regions, but spans April - October in southern Africa; June - December in the east; and October – April in the west (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001).

The species is not known to be directly persecuted by humans, even though it is very numerous and probably a direct competitor for fish.  Neither is it particularly affected by habitat loss. In some regions a build-up of organochlorine pesticides in water bodies and therefore in their fish prey, could result in eggshell thinning.  This has been recorded in South Africa (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001) and Zimbabwe (del Hoyo et al., 1994) but has not yet had any significant impact on the population.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. 1994. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Ferguson-Lees, J.; Christie, D. A. 2001. Raptors of the world. Christopher Helm, London.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Harding, M.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Haliaeetus vocifer. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - African fish-eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles)
Species name author (Daudin, 1800)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Stable
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 18,300,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change