Raptors at Zimbali

Raptors at Zimbali

Due to the success of its strict conservation policy, Zimbali Estate has acted as a conservancy for the re-establishment of many threatened indigenous species, by providing a secure home to a variety of local flora and fauna, including predatory birds known as raptors.

In order for these birds to survive at the top of their food chain, all the other links in the chain must be intact, or the raptors will be forced to relocate to a more suitable environment. Fortunately for us, Zimbali offers a habitable environment to support a variety of raptors.

Approximately twenty-five predatory birds prey on other creatures in Zimbali, namely, a pair of Crowned Eagles, a pair of African Fish Eagles, two pairs of Yellow-billed Kites that nest on the Estate, a pair of Black Sparrowhawks, a pair of African Goshawks, a pair of Little Sparrowhawks, and approximately five pairs of Spotted Eagle Owls. A single Long-crested Eagle is often seen sitting on posts along the road reserve verges of the M4 provincial road on the west boundary of Zimbali. However, the two raptors most regularly sighted are the African Fish Eagle and African Crowned Eagle.

In 2002, a pair of African Crowned Eagles visited Zimbali to breed. The pair has since returned every year to fledge a total of nine chicks. Their latest chick, known to Members as the “N2” baby Crowned Eagle, has provided raptor researcher from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, Shane McPherson, with new insights into the behaviour and movements of these birds of prey.

According to Shane, Zimbali offers the most-varied prey when compared to the habitats of the other urban adapted eagles in his study.

“The parent eagles delivered seventy-eight different types of prey to the young eaglet. The primary prey includes Hadeda nestlings, Blue Duiker and Vervet Monkeys. Prey of secondary importance include several Galagos (bushbabies), possibly a young bushbuck, a golden mole, a cane rat, a banded mongoose and an owl as well. Other items included Scrub Hare, Red-eyed Dove, Water Mongoose and possibly a Crested Guineafowl.”

For more information regarding Shane’s study, including video clips and photos of the growth stages of the N2 Crowned Eagle as well as the goose-eagle interactions and conflicts, kindly visit his blog at http://kzn-ce.blogspot.com/