Zandvlei Trust

Fish-Eagles: Detectives required!


photographs by Graham Searle

The parents with the chick.                               The chick on the nest.

The Breede River Fish-Eagle Project requires the services of Fish Eagle Detectives. The qualifications needed are very basic – at least one eye and half a brain – and the pay is worse – zero Rands per hour – but there's no onerous interview process involved. Detectives will be involved in solving an interesting question that has baffled scientists for decades: Where is it that young Fish Eagles go after they've left their nesting area?

The pair of Fish Eagles that's often seen at Zandvlei has their nest up in the Constantiaberg, in a massive eucalyptus tree. (The nest is 55 metres off the ground, possibly the highest ever recorded for this species.) Every year this pair usually fledges a single chick. In past years this youngster has been brought down to Zandvlei, usually around late October / November, to learn how to fish.

photographs by Ann Koeslag

Climbing up to the nest to ring the chick                 A wing tagged "shaggy brown" juvenile at Zandvlei.

We've fitted this year's baby with a pair of plastic wing-tags carrying a unique code consisting of two letters and two numbers in the hope that everyone will be on the lookout for it. This way we can keep track of its movements without having to fit an expensive satellite transmitter. The tags can be seen when the bird is sitting, or on the top surface of the wings if you see it from above when in flight.
(Note: Young Fish-Eagles aren't cleanly white-headed like the adults. They're somewhat shaggy-looking brown birds and take a few years to turn into what looks to most people like a Fish Eagle.)

Fish Eagle detectives, upon sighting a tagged bird, will be asked to notify Adam Welz, project manager, a.s.a.p. 
He can be reached on 073 162 3887 or .

Adam will need to know where you saw the bird, when, what it was doing and of course its tag code and colour. If you can get a photo that’s even better. If you can see the tags but can't make out the code exactly that's also OK – every piece of info helps!

Keep an eye out for tagged Fish Eagles everywhere you go, as quite a few have been marked in various parts of the country, and they could literally pitch up anywhere in Africa.

Adam will reply to every report he receives. If he doesn't reply, try again, as this means your message has not got through. Good luck!

The Breede River Fish Eagle Project is part of the Birds of Prey Working Group of the Endangered Wildlife Trust. It is sponsored by Distell (Pty) Ltd, makers of Flight of the Fish Eagle Natural Brandy.


Top of page  Back  Home