Black Eagles and Leopard in Contest

Published: 04 June 2010

We recently received the following story from visitors to the Cederberg:

"My husband and I are just getting to know Cape Town and the surrounding areas – We moved here 22 months ago from Middelburg, Mpumalanga.

We stayed at the Algeria camping site in the Cederberg for the weekend of the 14th of May 2010. On the morning of the 15th, we drove in a South Easterly direction from the camp to do some birding. The weather was cool after a week of rain in the area.

Approximately 10 km from Algeria (above the Driehoek turn-off), at approximately 11:15, we noticed two Black Eagles soaring in the air. We stopped to look at them through our binoculars and heard them calling. We spent some more time watching them, since we thought the calling would be followed by an “air show” like we have observed years ago in the Bergkwagga Park (close to Cradock). My husband followed one of the eagles through his binoculars as it started to dive down, and the next moment he called out that he noticed a leopard and that it was being “dive bombed” by the eagle. He showed me the place – it was far above us – as you can see in the attached photograph.

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The eagles continued harassing the leopard and gave my husband the opportunity to take some photographs – although he has a 400mm lens on the camera, the distance unfortunately left us with photos that are not of a good quality, but the moment was captured…"

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Very special for 2 lovers of birds and nature who only expect to see leopards in the Kruger National Park!
- Story and photos by Derick and Charmaine Oosthuizen

It is incredible that this was captured on camera and must have been amazing to watch. Interestingly, Quinton recently wrote a piece for the Birding Africa website on this phenomenon, saying that a good chance of seeing a mountain leopard in the Cape is to watch the behaviour of the birds, particularly Black (Verreaux’s) Eagles. Once when we were out tracking the leopard Apache (M11), a pair of Black Eagles dive-bombed him. Unfortunately we could not see the leopard as he had gone over the other side of the koppie we were on.

Leopards and Black Eagles compete for the same resources – predominantly dassies. They are also likely to prey on each other’s young if they have the opportunity. Thus these two top predators, lords of the sky and the land, are bound to have an antagonistic relationship.

What a dramatic scene to witness! Our thanks to the Oosthuizen’s for sharing it with us…

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