Portrait of bateleur eagle

Caption: Close-up of a captive bateleur eagle (Terathopius ecaudatus), profile view, African Bird of Prey Sanctuary, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Camera: Canon EOS 400D (Digital Rebel XTi); Lens: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM; Focal Length: 300mm; Shutter speed: 1/250; Aperture: f5.6; ISO: 400.

The bateleur, with its bright orange face surrounded by a dark, shaggy cowl, has been described as the most easily recognised eagle of the African plains.

In flight, the bateleur — with its distinctive rocking action, tilting from side to side as though keeping its balance — is also easily identified.

The picture above was taken through the cage mesh at the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary, a self-funded care and rehabilitation center near Cato Ridge in KwaZulu-Natal.

It is home to the widest selection of indigenous birds of prey in southern Africa, including captive-bred or “non-releasable rehabilitation” birds, such as this adult bateleur, one of three at the center.

The captive birds give visitors a unique opportunity to view and photograph many rare birds of prey from close-up. For an in-depth article about the ethics or otherwise of photographing captive animals, see this sometimes controversial piece in Audubon magazine.

While most the “game farms” mentioned in the article appear interested only in making a quick buck, the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary is completely different in that its very existence is based on protecting and conserving Africa’s birds of prey.

In fact the sanctuary’s effectiveness in this crucial role is contantly challenged by insufficient funds, and donations or contributions are always needed to assist research, caring for and rehabilitating birds, and educating the public. See Feathered Friends Sponsorship Program for more on this and particulary the Wish List of needed equipment.

One of the wishes is for a camera: “A Canon 400D – now this is a big wish, but I suppose it doesn’t hurt to dream! We have a full range of professional canon lenses at our disposal and a standard 35mm body, but would like to go digital and the 400D is a digital camera compatible with all the old pro. lenses. Many of the conditions or treatments seen on the sick and injured birds of prey are unknown. To photograph them digitally and send the images immediately to experts anywhere in the world would be to increase the chance of saving the raptor.”

So, anyone with a Canon EOS 400D or similar lying around gathering dust, here’s a perfect opportunity to have it put to good use!




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+Scotch Macaskill