Verreaux’s Eagles hunting Grey Rhebuck

I was invited on a herping weekend by my brother and a couple of friends. We spent two nights at Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge in the northern Drakensberg. On Friday, 15 March 2024, we were looking for snakes around the Sentinel Peak Car Park. It was by no means a birding weekend, but we did have a few wonderful sightings of Bearded and Cape Vultures during the course of the morning.Bearded Vulture

After a few hours of flipping rocks, everyone split off in different directions. I climbed up the hill behind the Parking Lot Building and sat down on a rock to enjoy the spectacular scenery when I heard a high-pitched whistling sound. I scanned with my binoculars to try and locate the source of the sound. That is when I saw the most incredible sight.

Two Verreaux’s Eagles were terrorising a small herd of Grey Rhebuck!Verreauxs Eagle

They were swooping down in tandem, obviously trying to separate a young lamb from the herd. They would hover above the herd, and then one adult Eagle would swoop down, trying to scatter the herd, with the second following closely, aiming for the young lamb.Verreauxs Eagle

This lasted for more than 10 minutes. Once or twice the Eagles came close to grabbing the lamb, even knocking it over. But all the adult Rhebuck helped to fight them off. Even the ram chased the Eagles as can be seen in one of the photos.Verreauxs EagleVerreauxs Eagle

The terrified whistling of the Rhebuck pierced the air as they tried to protect the youngster, with mom standing over it at times as it lay in the grass.Verreauxs Eagle

Eventually the Verreaux’s Eagle pair realised that they were not going to succeed in their hunt and disappeared.

I did see them a while later as they soared over the cliffs, but by then the Grey Rhebuck herd had moved into a little thicket.

The Rhebuck lamb was young, but still large, and I was astounded at the fact that these Eagles were brave enough to go after it, even with so many adults around. I was terrified that one of them would be injured, but both the Eagles and the young lamb walked away from the encounter without injury.