Savannas in Sub-Saharan Africa are the natural haunts of the Bateleur Eagle (Terathopius ecaudatus). The genus name Terathopius means "marvelous face," which you can see in the photograph above. The specific epithet means "without tail," a reference to the very short tail on this medium-sized eagle. Bateleur eagles are aerial acrobats that characteristically tip their wings back and forth when they are flying, reminiscent of a tightrope act; in fact, "Bateleur" is French for "tightrope walker." These snake eagles mate for life, staying in the same nest for many years, and the female lays just a single egg. Only ~2% of chicks survive to become adults, which takes 7 or 8 years. Bateleur Eagles feed mostly on birds, but also will eat snakes, some mammals, and carrion.
The Blue Crane (Anthropoides paradisea) is endemic to southern Africa; greater than 99% of the populations of this species occur in South Africa, with a small population also occurring in neighboring Namibia, and breeding pairs found in 5 other countries on occasion. Unfortunately, this critically endangered species is in decline as a result of population growth, afforestation, and poisoning, both intentional to protect crops and unintentional as a result of pesticide application. The National Bird of South Africa, Blue Cranes are ~4 feet tall and can be found feeding on insects, small vertibrates, and plant seeds in dry grasslands.
And then, there are the penguins. Seventeen species of penguins exist worldwide; unforturnately, populations of most of these are declining. Lindsay watched a program on PBS last week about this goofy group of birds. From the program, Lindsay learned that penguins can survive and breed in areas that are often too cold for plant life. They usually are found in large colonies. Penguins can't fly, and are very clumsy on land, but they are agile divers and swimmers, using their wings as flippers. Their biggest enemy, aside from global climate change, seems to be seals and sea lions.