Yvonne de Jong and Thomas Butynski are exploring northern Uganda to study primates, but that’s not all they’ve discovered. See what they found when they lifted their eyes to the skies.
During our survey of primates in February 2015, we were also on the look-out for raptors, as that is the time of year when many migrant species are wintering in East Africa.
At a bushfire near Kilak (about half way between Murchison Falls and Nimule National Parks) we encountered a large greyish-brown snake-eagle that we couldn’t identify. Neither of us had seen this eagle before.
Later, with bird books at hand, we determined that this mystery bird was a Beaudouin’s snake-eagle (Circaetus beaudouini). This large raptor is endemic to the Sahel region between the desert and savanna, and is rare in Uganda—there are no documented records for elsewhere in East Africa. As best as we can determine, ours is only the second photographic record of this species for Uganda (see the previous one here).
With a wingspan of about 5.5 feet (170 cm), the Beaudouin’s snake-eagle preys on small vertebrates (including snakes) in savanna, woodland, grassland, and cultivated areas.
Little studied, this eagle is uncommon throughout its geographic range from West Africa eastwards through South Sudan. Birdlife International estimates the global population at fewer than 10,000 individuals.
As Beaudouin’s snake-eagle faces a number of serious threats and its population has declined, it is now categorized as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. All of the threats (such as habitat degradation, habitat loss, and pesticides) are related to the high human population density throughout its range.
If you have photographed Beaudouin’s snake-eagle in East Africa, please let us know at: firstname.lastname@example.org. We will then put you into contact with several raptor conservationists in East Africa.
Gliding over the wooded hills of the Otzi East Central Forest Reserve, just west of the White Nile, a red-necked buzzard gave us only a brief look.
This medium-sized migrant occasionally visits northwest Uganda from December to March but is otherwise not known for East Africa. Red-necked buzzards have a wide geographical range (from Mauritania south to Angola, and east into central Ethiopia and northwest Uganda). This buzzard prefers forest edge, secondary forest, woodland, and cultivation. Food consists of small mammals, birds, and reptiles.
The red-necked buzzard is categorized as being of “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as this species is relatively common in western Africa. In fact, populations appear to be increasing as degradation is making some habitats more suitable to them.
Below are photographs of eight other species of raptor that we encountered during our February 2015 survey in northern Uganda. Raptors were particularly common during this survey, especially in the vicinity of bushfires. Learn more in our earlier post: Why Uganda’s Bushfires Aren’t All Bad.An adult long-crested eagle (Lophaetus occipitalis) stands out against the flowers of the red hot poker tree (Erythrina abyssinica) in Zoka Central Forest Reserve, north Uganda. (Photograph by Yvonne de Jong and Tom Butynski)