The African fish eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer) or – to distinguish it from the true fish eagles (Ichthyophaga), the African sea eagle – is a large species of eagle that is found throughout sub-Saharan Africa wherever large bodies of open water occur that have an abundant food supply. It is the national bird of Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Sudan. As a result of its large range, it is known in many languages. Examples of names include:
Visarend in Afrikaans.
The African fish eagle is a large bird, and the female, at 3.2-3.6 kg (7-8 lbs) is larger than the male, at 2-2.5 kg (4.4-5.5 lbs). This is typical of sexual dimorphism in birds of prey. Males usually have a wingspan of about 2 m (6 feet), while females have wingspans of 2.4 m (8 feet). The body length is 63–75 cm (25–30 in).
The adult is very distinctive in appearance with a mostly brown body and large, powerful, black wings. The head, breast, and tail of African fish eagles are snow white, with the exception of the featherless face, which is yellow. The eyes are dark brown in colour. The hook-shaped beak, ideal for a carnivorous lifestyle, is yellow with a black tip. The plumage of the juvenile is brown in colour, and the eyes are paler compared to the adult.
The feet have rough soles and are equipped with powerful talons in order to enable the eagle to grasp slippery aquatic prey. While this species mainly subsists on fish, it is opportunistic and may take a wider variety of prey such as waterbirds. Its distinctive cry is, for many, evocative of the spirit or essence of Africa.