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Steppe Eagle
Aquila nipalensis

Status: Endangered

Population Trend: Declining.

Other Names: Oriental Steppe Eagle.

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Aquila nipalensis
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Distribution: Afrotropical/Indomalayan/Palearctic. Southeastern European RUSSIA and ROMANIA east to Lake Balkhash and eastern KAZAKHSTAN, Altai, and TIBET east to northeastern CHINA; winters in southern Asia, Middle East, Arabia, eastern and southern Africa, Indian subcontinent (except the south), far southern CHINA (Hainan), and Southeast Asia, with stragglers to the Malay Peninsula. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic. more....

Taxonomy: Formerly merged with A. rapax by Brown and Amadon (1968), Voous (1977), Stresemann and Amadon 1979, Amadon and Bull (1988), and Stepanyan (1990), but Brooke et al. (1972), Snow (1978), and Clark (1992) argued against this treatment, based on morphological, behavioral, and ecological differences between the two taxa. The latter view received support from the molecular phylogenetic analysis of Helbig et al. (2005), using DNA sequences of one mitochondrial and three nuclear genes, who found no evidence that they are even sister species. A study by Lerner and Mindell (2005), based on the molecular sequences of one nuclear and two mitochondrial genes, showed that this species forms a monophyletic group with A. heliaca (and presumably A. adalberti) and A. rapax, and they recommended that a taxonomic revision be undertaken to show the distinctiveness of this group from other Aquila eagles.

Movements: Complete long distance, trans-equatorial migrant (Bildstein 2006), with the entire breeding population wintering in Africa or Southwest Asia. There is some indication that adults winter in Africa north of the equator, while subadults move farther south into southern Africa (Brooke et al. 1972), although recent satelllite tracking studies suggest that this is not always the case. There are local movements in the wintering range in response to changes in rainfall patterns. This species often migrates in large, loose flocks, unlike other eagles (Rasmussen and Anderton 2005), and as many as 29,000 migrating Steppe Eagles have been counted passing overhead in a single day in spring migration over Eilat, Israel. more....

Habitat and Habits: Occurs in steppe, desert, semi-desert, open savanna, pastures, agricultural fields, paddy fields, grassland, and open woodland. It roosts on the ground, in groups in trees, or perches on power poles. Steppe Eagles are nearly always found in groups in winter, sometime numbering more than a hundred birds, and often in association with other raptors, especially Black Kites and Lesser Spotted Eagles. This species appears sluggish, spending much of its time perched on rock piles, the ground, or telephone poles). more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Preys mainly on small mammals, birds, and reptiles, and also on carrion. In Mongolia, its diet is composed mostly of Brandt's Voles (Lasiopodomys brandtii), and nests are often placed in the vicinity of vole colonies (Sundev et al. 2010). This species often takes prey from the ground while walking around, sometimes waiting in the vicinity of rodent burrows, and it pirates prey from other raptor species. In the winter range in Africa, it preys mainly on termite and locust swarms, often among mixed groups of raptor species, and also on quelea colonies. It has been observed following ploughs in loose groups in winter in Saudi Arabia (Stagg 1991). more....

Breeding: Breeds in most parts of its range from April-August. Builds a flat stick nest lined with scraps of skins and placed on the ground, rock columns, power poles, or in anthropogenic locations, including abandoned cars and artificial nest platforms. Clutch size is 1-4 white eggs, usually with yellowish-brown markings. more....

Threats: Habitat loss is the greatest threat as their natural Steppe habitat is converted into agricultural lands. They are also very susceptible collisions with power lines and wind power development.

Conservation: Widespread and locally common throughout its range, but there have apparently been major population declines in recent decades Yosef 2003). BirdLife International (2004) reported that populations in European Russia and Turkey are in decline, but they constitute less than 5% of the total global population. Yosef and Fornasari (2004) reported that the number of migrants passing through Israel has dropped by half since 1975, and the number of immatures decreased from 30% of the total count in the 1980s to <2% in 2000. They attributed this to radioactive fall-out from the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster. Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2001) mentioned that there is unusually heavy predation on nestlings in some areas. Probably the most widespread threats include habitat loss to agriculture, especially in steppe regions, human persecution, and electrocution on power lines. Categorized globally as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International, but comments are currently being solicited to determine if this species should be upgraded to Near Threatened (Bird and Symes 2009). more....

Population Estimates: Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2001) placed the global population (defined as the number of adults and immatures at the start of the breeding season) in the range of 100,101 to 1,000,000 individuals. In contrast, BirdLife International (2009) estimated the number of mature birds at a mere 10,000 individuals, but noted that the supporting data for this estimate were poor. The European population was estimated at 15,000 to 25,000 breeding pairs by BirdLife International/European Bird Census Council (2000) and later in the rather broad range of 5,000 to 20,000 breeding pairs (BirdLife International 2004). more....

Important References: 
BirdLife International/European Bird Census Council. 2000. European bird
  populations: estimates and trends. BirdLife Conservation Series no. 10.
  BirdLife International,Cambridge, UK.
Brooke, R.H., J.H. Grobler, M.P.S. Irwin, anbd P. Steyn. 1972. A study of
  the migratory eagles Aquila nipalensis and A. pomarina (Aves: Accipitridae)
  in southern Africa, with comparative notes on other large raptors.
  Occasional Papers of the National Museum of Rhodesia B5:61-114.
Brown, L.H., E.K. Urban, and K. Newman. 1982. The birds of Africa. Vol. 1.
  Academic Press, London.
Clark, W.S. 1992. The taxonomy of Steppe and Tawny Eagles, with criteria
  for separation of museum specimens and live eagles. Bulletin of the British
  Ornithologists' Club 112:150-157.
Clark, W.S. 2005. Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis is monotypic. Bulletin
  of the British Ornithologists' Club 125:149-153.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Helbig, A.J., A. Kocum, I. Seibold, and M.J. Braun. 2005. A multi-gene
  phylogeny of aquiline eagles (Aves: Accipitriformes) reveals extensive
  paraphyly at the genus level. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Meyburg, B.U. 1994. Steppe Eagle. P. 194 in del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott, and
  J. Sargatal (eds). Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New World
  vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Meyburg, B.-U., P. Paillat, and C. Meyburg. 2003. Migration routes of
  Steppe Eagles between Asia and Africa: a study by means of satellite
  telemetry. Condor 105:219-227.
Naoroji, R. 2006. Birds of prey of the Indian subcontinent. Christopher
  Helm, London.
Simmons, R.E. 1997. Steppe Eagle. P. 180 in J.A. Harrison et al. (eds.),
  The atlas of South African birds. Volume 1: Non-passerines. BirdLife South
  Africa and Avian Demography Unit, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Simmons, R.E. 2005. Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis. Pp. 528-529 in P.A.R.
  Hockey, W.R.J. Dean, and P.G. Ryan (eds.), Roberts Birds of Southern Africa.
  7th ed. Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town, South

Sites of Interest:
Steppe Eagle photos.
Species account, with an emphasis on European populations.

Bohra, Dr. Dau Lal
BT, Sowmithri
Gombobaatar, Sundev
Gurung, Surya
Karyakin, Igor
Katzner, Todd E.
Meyburg, Bernd-U.
Nikolenko, Elvira
Soni, Hiren
Steyn, Peter
Vyas, Virag

Last modified: 11/9/2015

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2020. Species account: Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 26 Nov. 2020

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