This is a large eagle although it is one of the smaller species in the Aquila genus. It is 60-75 cm (24-30 in) in length. It has tawny upperparts and blackish flight feathers and tail. The lower back is very pale. This species is smaller and paler than the Steppe eagle, although it does not share that species' pale throat.
Immature birds are less contrasted than adults, but both show a range of variation in plumage colour.
The tawny eagle's diet is largely fresh carrion of all kinds, but it will kill small mammals up to the size of a rabbit, reptiles and birds up to the size of guineafowl. It will also steal food from other raptors.
The call of the tawny eagle is a crow-like barking, but it is rather a silent bird except in display.