Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 383–396 | Cite as

Diet of the crowned eagle (Stephanoaetus coronatus) in an urban landscape: potential for human-wildlife conflict?

  • Shane C. McPhersonEmail author
  • Mark Brown
  • Colleen T. DownsEmail author


The study of diet is pivotal in understanding a species, particularly for quantifying a predatory raptors’ economic niche and potential for human-wildlife conflict. The crowned eagle (Stephanoaetus coronatus) is one of Africa’s apex predators and a population is present within the urban greenspace mosaic of Durban and Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. In close association with urban development, the local population of crowned eagles has the potential to be a concern to the safety of domestic stock and pets. Time-lapse cameras were positioned at urban nest sites (n = 11) to identify the prey composition during breeding, particularly in regards to taxa with human associations. The numerical proportion of avian prey, particularly hadeda ibis (Bostricia hagedash) pulli, was several times greater than any previous diet description. The methodology used and the abundance of hadeda ibis in these urban environments are potential contributing factors. Rock hyrax (Procavia capensis) was the primary prey and where hyrax were unavailable, the diet composition was broader and included more vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus). It was found that domestic stock comprised 6 % of the identifiable prey. Contrary to popular belief, no dogs (Canis familiaris) and few cats (Felis domesticus) were delivered to the nest by breeding eagles in this study. The negative consequences of small proportions of pet losses should be considered against the majority of wildlife prey consumed, which also have various wildlife conflict interactions. Juvenile and sub-adult eagles are most frequently identified at in situ attacks of pets, particularly toy dog breeds. Further research on juvenile dispersal and winter diet will provide insights on the ecological impacts of eagle management strategies in the region.


Crowned eagle Stephanoaetus coronatus Diet Camera trap Human-wildlife conflict Raptor Urban 



We thank Victoria Country Club Estate; Zimbali Estate Management Association; Cotswold Downs Estate; D Prout-Jones, Black Hawk; Birdlife Port Natal; Birdlife KZN Midlands; and Drummond Conservancy for their sponsorship of cameras. A stipend was awarded by the UKZN - eThekwini KZN Sandstone Sourveld Research Programme. We are indebted to S Thomsett, B Hoffman, and B Padbury for their respective advice on climbing, safety precautions against eagle attacks, and nest access schedules. Fieldwork and analysis was greatly assisted by M Jessen, P Banville, T Kunca, L Bambini. First analysis by intern students, especially A Awuah, T Gumede, and T Mkhize. Several experts can be thanked for their helpful contribution to the numerous diet verification discussions in addition to those already mentioned; G Nichols, R McKibbin, M Perrin, L Richards, and N Leidenberg.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Life SciencesUniversity of KwaZulu-NatalPietermaritzburgSouth Africa

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