The Bateleur is a colourful species with a very short tail (ecaudatus is Latin for tailless) which makes it unmistakable in flight. The adult male is 60 to 75 cm (24 to 30 in) long with a 175 cm (5.75 ft) wingspan. He has black plumage except for the chestnut mantle and tail, grey shoulders, and red facial skin, bill and legs.
The female is similar to the male except that she has grey rather than black secondary flight feathers. Immature birds are brown with white dappling and have greenish facial skin. It takes them seven or eight years to reach full maturity.
The eagle hunts over a territory of 250 square miles (650 km2) a day. The prey of this raptor is mostly birds, including pigeons and sandgrouse, and also small mammals; it also takes carrion.
The Bateleur is generally silent, but on occasions it produces a variety of barks and screams.
"Bateleur" is French for "tight-rope walker". This name describes the bird’s characteristic habit of tipping the ends of its wings when flying, as if catching its balance.
In some countries, outside of its natural distribution, the Bateleur is occasionally known as the "Conifer Eagle" or even "Pine Eagle", since its feathers somewhat resemble a conifer cone when it fluffs itself up.