Diet of nesting African Crowned Eagles Stephanoaetus coronatus in emerging and forest–savanna habitats in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
The aim of this study was to investigate the species composition of prey caught in the forest, savanna and emerging habitats in which African Crowned Eagles Stephanoaetus coronatus breed in KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa. At the 17 nest sites, the remains of 195 prey individuals were collected. The five dominant prey species caught were Rock Hyrax Procavia capensis, Vervet Monkey Chlorocebus pygerythrus, Blue Duiker Philantomba monticola, Greater Canerat Thryonomys swinderianus and Bushbuck Tragelaphus scriptus. All of these species respond positively to urban expansion. Only eagles that nested inside protected areas were recorded preying on domestic animals. In terms of biomass, Bushbuck was one of the dominant taxa, and the remains of an estimated 28.8 kg Bushbuck ram was found under a nest. The surprisingly high proportion of Rock Hyraxes and low proportion of Vervet Monkeys caught in emerging habitat may indicate that African Crowned Eagles nesting in this habitat are adapting to a more specialised feeding strategy compared with those nesting in habitats that are more natural. Future studies should investigate how and why prey proliferates in emerging habitats and examine the association between land uses and the diet of African Crowned Eagles.
Keywords: African Crowned Eagle, diet, emerging habitat, Stephanoaetus coronatus, urbanisation