Unbelievable sighting: Eagle catches young impala

Verreaux's eagle swoops down to catch impala

© Andrew Keys

Written, and photographs, by Andrew Keys 

Early one November morning I went out to the Nooitgedacht farm in the Magaliesberg in South Africa – about 70 kms west of Johannesburg. I go up there quite often to check on the resident pair of Verreaux’s eagles and their recently fledged juvenile, I am very privileged to be able to go up there as it is private property, I used to be a neighbour of the owners. There are about 12 pairs of Verreaux’s Eagles resident in the Magaliesberg.

Verreaux's eagle swoops down to catch impala

© Andrew Keys

Whilst sitting on the edge of the mountain I noticed the two adult resident Verreaux’s eagles circling far below just above the valley floor.

The female, which is huge, suddenly swooped down, I heard loud squealing and it looked like the bird was attacking an impala! I frantically grabbed my camera and saw the bird going in for another attack but the impala saw it off.

Verreaux's eagle trying to catch impala

© Andrew Keys

I then spotted a female impala run off with a young one in tow, the eagle swooped in again and despite the desperate efforts of the mother the eagle grabbed the young one and glided off down the valley with the male behind it, disappearing into the trees.

Then there was blood curdling squealing, which suddenly stopped, and that was the end of the young impala.

Verreaux's eagle with impala

© Andrew Keys

I have never seen this happen before as it is extremely rare to see these eagles make a kill like this as rock hyrax make up more than 90% of their diet – although if need be they can be opportunistic hunters. They hunt mostly on the wing by stooping from a height or swooping around a corner of a cliff, thereby surprising their prey. As in this case pairs often hunt co-operatively: one draws the prey’s attention while the other attacks.

What an experience, one can only be in awe of the power and strength of these magnificent predators of the mountains!

Verreaux's eagle flying off with impala

© Andrew Keys

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