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The bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus) is a medium-sized eagle in the family Accipitridae. Its closest relatives are the snake eagles. It is the only member of the genus Terathopius and may be the origin of the “Zimbabwe Bird”, national emblem of Zimbabwe. It is endemic to Africa and small parts of Arabia. “Bateleur” is French for “Street Performer”.

The bateleur is a colourful species with a very short tail (ecaudatus is Latinfor tailless) which, together with its white underwing coverts, makes it unmistakable in flight. The tail is so small the bird’s legs protrude slightly beyond the tail during flight. The bateleur is sexually dimorphic; both adults have black plumage, a chestnut mantle and tail, grey shoulders, tawny wing coverts, and red facial skin, bill and legs. The female additionally has tawny secondary wing feathers. Less commonly, the mantle may be white.[5] Immature birds are brown with white dappling and have greenish facial skin. It takes them seven or eight years to reach full maturity.

The bateleur is diurnal, and hunts over a territory of approximately 250 square miles (650 km2) a day. Bateleurs are hunters and scavengers; birds such as pigeons and sangrouse are preferred prey items, although it may attack small mammals and also takes carrion. The bateleur is generally silent, but on occasions it produces a variety ofbarks and screams. The bird spends a considerable amount of time on the wing, particularly in low-altitude glides.[6]”Bateleur” is French for “Street Performer” [3] which included performers such as tight-rope walkers. This name implies the bird’s characteristic habit of rocking its wings from side to side when gliding, as if catching its balance.

Distribution and Habitat

The bateleur eagle is a common to fairly common resident of the open savanna country and woodland (thornveld) within Sub-Saharan Africa; it also occurs in south-west Arabia. Total distribution size is estimated at 28,000,000 km2. The bird’s range has diminished significantly in recent decades, possibly due to poisoning.[8]

Conservation

In 2009, the bateleur was placed in the Near-Threatened IUCN Red List Category due to loss of habitat, pesticides, capture for international trade and nest disturbance.[9] Decline of the species is suspected to have been moderately rapid over the past three generations. Current conservation efforts are unknown. Like the martial eagle, the bateleur is reasonably common in conservation areas and scarce elsewhere. Global population is estimated at 10,000 to 100,000 individuals.[9]