By Washington Wachira

As I tip-toed behind a large Newtonia tree along the Karura River, I heard a spine-chilling scream! I aimed my binoculars upwards and marveled at the sight of a Harvey’s Duiker being grabbed by the largest African Crowned Eagle I have ever seen.

Turning right, I saw a large but gentle young eagle in a huge nest. Its white plumage stood out in the dark forest canopy as the parent put the duiker in the nest. The young bird quickly left with the hind limb of the duiker and headed for a feeding patch on a neighbouring tree.

Birds of prey are avian predators characterized by their keen vision, strong hooked bills and powerful talons. They are often called “raptors”, a name derived from Latin the word rapere, which means to seize or take by force.

There is a wide variety of raptors — from Eagles, Hawks, Secretarybird, Kites, Falcons [including Kestrels], Owls, Buzzards, Vultures and Osprey. Africa has 89 diurnal raptors and 31 owl species. Eagles are especially famous, the largest being the Martial Eagle, and the most powerful, the African Crowned Eagle.

The Martial Eagle, scanning the savannah for gazelle fawns, the lightning-fast stoop of a Lanner Falcon swooping in for a sandgrouse, the smooth and silent flight of a Barn Owl skimming over farmlands for mice, the leisurely soar of a White-backed Vulture browsing the grasslands for carrion. Awesome!