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Lesser Spotted Eagle
Lophaetus pomarinus

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Declining.

Other Names: Aquila pomarina, Lesser Spotted-eagle.

Lophaetus pomarinus
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Distribution: Afrotropical/Palearctic. Central eastern and southeastern Europe through TURKEY and Caucasus to southern Caspian lowlands; winters in southern Africa and probably East Africa. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic.

Taxonomy: The molecular phyogenetic analysis of Helbig et al. (2005), using DNA sequences of one mitochondrial and two nuclear genes, showed that the "spotted eagles" form a monophylum with each other and the Long-crested Eagle. They recommended that these species and A. hastatus be merged into the genus Lophaetus, requiring the name change from pomarina to pomarinus for gender reasons. Some systematists (e.g., Wink and Sauer-Gürth 2004) would favor merging the genus Lophaetus into Aquila. The study of Lerner and Mindell (2005) also supported these relationships, and they found that this clade also includes the Black Eagle of Asia, traditionally placed in a separate genus Ictinaetus. Wells and Inskipp (2012) proposed that the three spotted eagle species be placed in a new genus, Aquiloides. Välï (2002) and Lerner and Mindell (op cit.) confirmed a very close relationship between Lesser and Greater Spotted Eagles, showing that they were significantly different genetically, but more closely related to each other than any of the other accipitrid taxa that they studied. Instances of hybridization between this species and the Greater Spotted Eagle have been reported in all countries where they are sympatric, except for Russia (Lôhmus and Våli 2001, Meyburg and Meyburg 2007). more....

Movements: Complete long distance, trans-equatorial migrant (Bildstein 2006). Except for occasional isolated individuals wintering in southeastern Europe and Asia Minor, the entire population winters in Africa. Most birds normally winter in eastern Africa, but some also occur in lower numbers west to Cameroon, Nigeria, and Mali (Thiollay 1977). At least 90% of the birds wintering in southern Africa are immatures (Tarboton 1990). more....

Habitat and Habits: In the western Palearctic, it occurs in moist lowland forests, often near wetlands, but in Caucasia, it is found in dry upland forest to 2,200 m (Adamian and Klem 1999). In Russia, it occurs in forests and forest-steppes, river valleys, and the periphery of wet meadows (Flint 1984). Wintering birds in Africa occur in any woodland areas where the annual rainfall exceeds 600 mm. Occurs singly or in small flocks, and extremely large concentrations are sometimes found. In winter in Africa, this species is often found in large numbers with Steppe Eagles and Wahlberg's Eagles (Dowsett-Lemaire and Dowsett 2006). more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: On the breeding grounds, this species feeds mostly on small mammals, including ground squirrels, rats, mice, and voles, medium-sized birds, frogs, lizards, snakes, and insects (Flint 1984). In the wintering range, it preys upon frogs, reptiles, small birds and nestlings, insects, and carrion and also congregates at quelea colonies and at termite emergences (Tarboton 1990). Hunts from a perch or on the wing. more....

Breeding: Builds a large stick nest placed in a tree. Clutch size is 2 white eggs with brown markings. The incubation period at a nest in Armenia was estimated at 43-45 days (Adamian and Klem 1999). more....

Conservation: This species has a large, widely distributed population, but it has shown signs of decline in the western parts of its range. Many, perhaps thousands, are shot annually on their migration, and habitat loss is also a threat (Meyburg 1994). It has also suffered in its breeding range from the loss of habitat (conversion of wet pastures to agricultural uses and the loss of nest sites from tree felling) and from persecution (Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2001). Alon (2000) suggested that sharp decreases in migration counts in Israel might be related to radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Våli et al. (2004) noted that there are no reliable data indicating a spread of the Lesser Spotted Eagle northward, but new areas have been settled in the eastern limit of its distribution, where it hybridizes with the Greater Spotted Eagle (Melniov et al. 2001), and an expansion in that region seems to be taking place. Categorized as "Least Concern" by BirdLife International. more....

Population Estimates: Shirihai (1997) estimated the global population at 140,000 birds, based on migration counts. Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2001) placed the global population (defined as the number of adults and immatures at the start of the breeding season) from the high tens of thousands to low hundreds of thousands. BirdLife International (2009) estimated the total population of mature birds at 42,000 to 57,000 individuals, but noted that the supporting data for this estimate were poor. The European population was estimated at 10,000 to 12,000 breeding pairs by BirdLife International/European Bird Census Council (2000) and later at 14,000 to 19,000 breeding pairs (BirdLife International 2004). The poorest population data from eastern Europe and Asia Minor, where there are probably large breeding populations. 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.K., J.H. Grobler, M.P.S. Irwin, and 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 Natural History Museum Series B., Natural Sciences
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. 1969. [On the biology of the Lesser Spotted Eagle (Aquila
). Deutscher Falkenorden 1969:32-66. (In German with English
Meyburg, B.-U. 2001. European Species Action Plan for Lesser Spotted
  Eagle. In N. Schäffer and U. Gallo-Orsi (eds.), European Union Action Plans
  for eight priority bird species. European Commission, Luxemburg.
Mizera, T., and B.-U. Meyburg (eds.). 2005. Internatonal Meeting on
  Spotted Eagles: proceedings of an international symposium. Biebrza National
  Park, Osowiec, Poland.
Parry, S.J., W.S. Clark, and V. Prakash. 2002. On the taxonomic status of
  the Indian Spotted Eagle Aquila hastata. Ibis 144:665-675.
Prakash, V. 1996. Status, distribution and breeding biology of the Lesser
  Spotted Eagle in Keoladeo National Park. Pp. 357-375 in B.U. Meyburg and
  R.D. Chancellor (eds.), Eagle studies. World Working Group on Birds of Prey,
Simmons, R.E. 1997. Lesser Spotted Eagle. P. 181 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.
Välï, Ü. 2006. Mitochondrial DNA sequences support species status for
  the Indian Spotted Eagle Aquila hastata. Bulletin of the British
  Ornithologists’ Club. more....

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

Agostini, Nicolantonio
Galushin, Vladimir
Ivanovski, Vladimir
Jais, Markus
Meyburg, Bernd-U.
Sandor, Attila
Steyn, Peter
Vetrov, Vitaly
Waks, V.J.

Last modified: 4/26/2012

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: Lesser Spotted Eagle Lophaetus pomarinus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 28 Nov. 2021

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