BirdLife South Africa is thrilled to announce that the Bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus) is Bird of the Year 2024!
Also known as the Berghaan (Afrikaans), ingqungqulu (isiZulu), and ingqanga (isiXhosa), this magnificent raptor is famous for its striking appearance and remarkable aerial behaviour. Surely a Bateleur soaring high above the African bushveld, with its rocking, gliding motion, is one of the most iconic sights of our country and indeed our continent?
The Bateleur is a truly charismatic and eye-catching bird of prey, with its distinctive plumage – a combination of black, white, and vibrant red-orange on the face and legs. Its common English name, Bateleur, was coined by famed French explorer, writer and ornithologist François Levaillant, and is said to be French for a “tumbler” or “tightrope walker”, which aptly describes this bird’s graceful, aerial acrobatics. Its isiZulu name, ingqungqulu, is onomatopoeic, refering to the sounds of battle drums due to the species relation to war in the Zulu culture. Also very fittingly, its scientific name, Terathopius ecaudatus, is a celebration of its marvelous face, and its short tail.
This species is equally at home in the bushveld of the Kruger National Park, or the arid Kalahari. It is sexually dimorphic, meaning males and females can be differentiated based on their plumage or appearance. This is most easily done when they are in flight by looking at their underwing pattern. Males have all-black secondary and inner primary feathers, while females have broad white bases to these feathers (referring to the header image at the top of this page, the male is above the female).
As bold, majestic and strong an image as these birds portray, unfortunately they are classified as regionally Endangered, with an estimated population reduction of over 50% over the past three generations (40 years), leaving a regional population size of less than 1000 mature individuals.
It is suspected that this is due to habitat transformation, which has led to a decrease in the available prey base for Bateleurs, especially outside protected areas. Its tendency to scavenge also puts this species at particular risk from indiscriminate poisoning, especially by small-stock farmers. Illegal harvesting of this species for use in the muthi trade is another recent trend, which needs to be further investigated.
Join us in celebrating the Bateleur and supporting the conservation of these incredible birds and their habitats. Together, we can ensure that future generations can marvel at the beauty of the Bateleur in the wild.
Stay tuned to this web page, as BirdLife South Africa will create awareness about the Bateleur through the production of educational materials, such as posters, infographics, and learning resources for schools that will be free to download on this web page; articles in African Birdlife magazine; social media posts; and presentations to interested groups. Bateleur merchandise, such as t-shirts, pin badges, socks, and fluffy toys, will also be on sale through BirdLife South Africa’s Shop for the Birds! from January 2024.
We would like to share our gratitude with our Bird of the Year sponsor, the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust, for once again making this initiative possible through the funds they generously donate towards BirdLife South Africa and the conservation of birds and biodiversity.
Watch this space for the Bird of the Year 2024 (Bateleur) Conservation Conversations webinar in early 2024.
Watch this space for educational Bird of the Year 2024 (Bateleur) posters in early 2024, or make sure you get your January/February issue of African Birdlife magazine for a copy of the poster.
Watch this space for educational Bird of the Year 2024 (Bateleur) infographics in early 2024.
Watch this space for Bird of the Year 2024 (Bateleur) fact files in early 2024.
Watch this space for Bird of the Year 2024 (Bateleur) colouring-in sheets in early 2024.
Watch this space for Bird of the Year 2024 (Bateleur) lesson plans in early 2024.
Additional previous Birds of the Year have been:
2019 – Secretarybird
2018 – African Black Oystercatcher
2017 – Lappet-Faced Vulture
2016 – Sociable Weaver
2015 – Blue Crane
2014 – Tristan Albatross
2013 – White-winged Flufftail
2012 – African Fish Eagle
2011 – Barn Swallow
2010 – Lesser Flamingo
2009 – Cape Robin-chat
2008 – Spotted Eagle-Owl
2007 – African Penguin