Central and southeastern Africa


Forests, mountains, and grasslands

The most powerful eagle in Africa

Crowned eagles are not the largest eagles in Africa—martial eagles claim that title—but they are the most powerful. Their legs are thick, and they have a very long talon on each back toe that helps them kill animals more than four times their size. Crowned eagles live in the tall woodland forests and rain forests of Africa. They are often seen on Africa's savannas as well. Built for flying among trees, the crowned eagle's wings are short and broad, and its long tail helps guide the bird like a rudder guides a boat. These features allow the eagle to fly easily through the branches.

Dark, good looks

Adult crowned eagles have a dark brown head with long crest feathers tipped in white, a cream or reddish breast with black bars, and wings that are black on the top and reddish underneath. Like many raptors, the female is larger than the male.

A crowned eagle can swoop after prey in the air at 100 miles (160 kilometers) per hour yet brake to a halt within 20 feet (6 meters). It pushes its powerful wings against the air currents to slow down.
The crown feathers of the crowned eagle are valued among African tribesmen as ornaments.
The flight of the crowned eagle is remarkably quiet, much like the silent flight of owls.
The crowned eagle is the only surviving member of its genus. The Madagascar crowned hawk-eagle died out about 1,000 years ago after humans arrived in Madagascar and hunted its main prey, giant lemurs, into extinction.

Our Zoo’s founder, Dr. Harry Wegeforth, obtained our first crowned eagle, a female, in Nairobi in 1930. The world’s first zoo-born crowned eagle hatched at the San Diego Zoo in April 1996, and the parents went on to produce five more offspring over the years.

Today, we have a male crowned eagle that can be seen across from the bonobos in the Zoo’s Lost Forest.

Crowned eagles are fairly common throughout their range, since they prefer thick forests where people don't usually live. If they venture out in open lands where livestock is normally found, they are sometimes shot by ranchers who fear the eagles might prey on their livestock. But since crowned eagles prefer forest habitat, their greatest threat comes from people destroying those forests and killing prey animals the eagles need.

You can help us bring other eagle species back from the brink by supporting the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy. Together we can save and protect wildlife around the globe.