Polemaetus bellicosus 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Accipitriformes Accipitridae

Scientific Name: Polemaetus bellicosus
Species Authority: (Daudin, 1800)
Common Name(s):
English Martial Eagle
French Aigle martial
Taxonomic Source(s): del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2acde+3cde+4acde ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2013-11-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S.
Contributor(s): Ajama, A., Baker, N., Brewster, C., Brown, C., Daniel, O., Hall, P., Tyler, S., Coetzee, R., van Eeden, R., Rainey, H. & Thomsett, S.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Harding, M. & Symes, A.
This species has been uplisted to Vulnerable because it is suspected to have undergone rapid declines during the past three generations (56 years) owing to deliberate and incidental poisoning, habitat loss, reduction in available prey, pollution and collisions with power lines. Further information on trends across its large range may lead to its further uplisting to Endangered in the future.

Previously published Red List assessments:
2012 Near Threatened (NT)
2009 Near Threatened (NT)
2008 Least Concern (LC)
2004 Least Concern (LC)
2000 Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
1994 Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
1988 Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Polemaetus bellicosus has an extensive range across much of sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal and the Gambia east to Ethiopia and north-west Somalia and south to Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. It is generally scarce to uncommon or rare, but is reasonably common in some areas (Ferguson-Lees & Christie 2001). It is suspected to have undergone declines in much of its range, including West Africa (Thiollay 2006, H. Rainey in litt. 2013), Namibia (C. Brown in litt. 2009), Nigeria (P. Hall in litt. 2009), Kenya (S. Thomsett in litt. 2013) and South Africa (R. van Eeden in litt. 2013).

Countries occurrence:
Angola (Angola); Benin; Botswana; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d'Ivoire; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Kenya; Malawi; Mali; Mauritania; Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; Nigeria; Rwanda; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Somalia; South Africa; South Sudan; Sudan; Swaziland; Tanzania, United Republic of; Togo; Uganda; Zambia; Zimbabwe
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO): No
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2: 29200000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO): No
Continuing decline in number of locations: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations: No
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The global population has not been quantified, but was estimated as probably 'in tens of thousands' by Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2001), while the South African population was believed to be no larger than 600 pairs (Barnes 2000).

Trend Justification:  Declines have taken place across much of this species's range owing to habitat loss, deliberate and incidental poisoning, collisions with power lines, and pollution. Comparison of South African Bird Atlas Project data from 1987-1993 and 2007-2012 suggests that the species underwent declines of nearly 60% in 20 years; the rate of decline in protected areas was 42% over this period, including declines of 54% in Kruger National Park and 45% in the Kalahari National Park (D. Cloete per R. van Eeden in litt. 2013). Rapid declines have almost certainly taken place in Kenya, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s, and road counts in Tsavo National Park since the 1970s indicate a 50% decline, although the data have not yet been analysed (S. Thomsett in litt. 2013). The overall rate of decline is difficult to quantify but is suspected to have been rapid or possibly even very rapid over the past three generations (56 years). It is consequently placed in the band 30-49%, but better data may show that declines are even more severe.

Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations: No Population severely fragmented: No
Continuing decline in subpopulations: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations: No All individuals in one subpopulation: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: It inhabits open woodland, wooded savanna, bushy grassland, thornbush and, in southern Africa, more open country and even subdesert, from sea level to 3,000 m but mainly below 1,500 m (Ferguson-Lees & Christie 2001). The main prey is sizeable mammals, birds and reptiles (Ferguson-Lees & Christie 2001).

Systems: Terrestrial; Freshwater
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat: Unknown
Generation Length (years): 18.50
Movement patterns: Not a Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The species suffers from direct persecution (shooting and trapping) by farmers, indirect poisoning (these two threats by far the most important causes of losses), drowning in sheer-walled reservoirs, electrocution on power lines, and habitat alteration and degradation (Global Raptor Information Network 2009). Poisoning is largely carried out by a few large-scale commercial farmers, but is also a problem in tribal small-stock farming communities. Deforestation may be having less of an impact on this species than on other large eagles as it can utilise man-made structures for nesting. Large mammal populations in West Africa are highly threatened and the threats are likely to increase in the future as human populations continue to grow. (H. Rainey in litt. 2013).  Reduction in natural prey may lead to an increase in predation on domestic animals which may in turn lead to increased persecution by farmers. In some areas birds may be taken for use in traditional medicine, and parts have been found in muthi markets in Johannesburg (R. Coetzee in litt. 2013). The majority of protected areas in Kenya are too small to hold a single pair (S. Thomsett in litt. 2013), and the size of territory means that birds nesting in protected areas will generally forage far outside them, making them more vulnerable to persecution. In South Africa the highest declines were observed in areas with the greatest increase in temperature and areas with high densities of power lines, probably due to collisions and electrocutions. In Kruger National Park, higher densities of elephants were related to larger declines in Martial Eagles, probably as a result of a reduction in nesting sites or changes in habitat quality (R. van Eeden in litt. 2013).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
A system to compensate farmers for stock losses has been initiated in South Africa.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Introduce programmes combining awareness campaigns and compensation to farmers for stock losses across the species's range. Install anti-electrocution devices on electricity pylons. Implement education and awareness campaigns across its range to reduce the use of poisoned baits. Carry out regular population monitoring across its range.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2013. Polemaetus bellicosus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2013: e.T22696116A49172531. . Downloaded on 30 November 2015.
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