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White-tailed Eagle
Haliaeetus albicilla

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Increasing.

Other Names: Erne, Eurasian Sea Eagle, Sea Eagle, White-tailed Fish-eagle, White-tailed Fish-eagle, White-tailed Sea-eagle, White-tailed Sea Eagle.

Haliaeetus albicilla
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Distribution: Nearctic/Palearctic. Southwestern GREENLAND, western ICELAND, northern and central Eurasia south to GREECE and TURKEY, southern Caspian Sea south to the northern Mediterranean region and Persian Gulf and east to PAKISTAN, northern INDIA, southeastern CHINA, and JAPAN; northern populations winter in more southern areas, including southern Europe, the Mediterranean region, Honshu, KOREA, the eastern CHINA coast, and KOREA. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic. more....

Taxonomy: A morphological analysis by Zimbelmann (1992), an allozyme analysis by Schreiber and Weitzel (1995), and molecular phylogenetic analyses by Wink et al. (1996), Seibold and Helbig (1996), and Lerner and Mindell (2005), confirmed that Haliaeetus is monophyletic with a close relationship to the milvine kites of the genera Milvus and Haliastur. The latter authors found that the northern sea eagle species, H. albicilla, H. leucocephalus, H. pelagicus, and H. leucoryphus, form a clade distinct from the southern members of the genus. H. albicilla forms a sister species with H. leucocephalus (Wink et al. (op cit.). more....

Movements: Partial migrant (Bildstein 2006). Most birds are resident, but adults in northern and eastern populations are migratory, tending to move southwestwards after the breeding season (Brown and Grice 2005). In addition, some individuals are nomadic, and altitudinal migration has been reported in Armenia (Adamian and Klem 1999). In Greenland, adults are mostly stationary, but juveniles and immatures are migratory or partially so, wintering along the coasts in open water regions (Boertmann 1994). more....

Habitat and Habits: Found in a variety of habitats from tundra to desert, but is usually found near water in river valleys, floodplains, and along sea- and lakeshores, or even out to sea. It is often found on undisturbed cliffs, and it requires open stands of large, old-growth trees for nesting. This eagle often perches in dead trees, on cliffs, on the ground, or on other low vantage points and is typically observed singly, or in pairs. Soars less often than other large raptors and frequently uses ponderous, unidirectional flapping flight, even when fishing (Rasmussen and Anderton 2005). more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds on fish, birds (ducks, gulls, partridges, coots), mammals (hares, muskrats, susliks), and carrion. Snatches fish from near the water surface (not by plunging) harasses waterbirds to exhaustion, frequently takes offal, scavenges, kleptoparasitizes other raptor species, and it may also attend fishing activities and become commensal with humans (Rasmussen and Anderton 2005). more....

Breeding: Builds a massive stick nest usually placed high in a tree, but sometimes on a rocky cliff. Nests are re-used in successive years and often become very large. Clutch size is usually 2 eggs, sometimes 1 or 3. Eggs are white and unmarked. more....

Conservation: Downlisted from Near Threatened to Least Concern by BirdLife International in 2005, following its continuing strong recovery beginning in the early 1970s, particularly in the northern and western European portions of its range. The banning of DDT use in most countries in its range, resulting in a return to normal eggshell thickness in this species, has probably been the most important single factor leading to population increases, although increased protection of the birds and and their habitats have also promoted recovery. In addition, highly successful reintroduction programs have been conducted in several areas, e.g., in Scotland, other parts of the United Kingdom, and Bohemia, where the historical breeding populations had been extirpated. Threats still exist from the loss of wetlands and nesting habitat from logging and development, human disturbance, collisions with wind turbines, shooting, poisoning, and collisions with wind turbines (BirdLife International 2007). Declines in the 19th and early 20th centuries were due mainly to human persecution, poisoning, and habitat destruction. more....

Population Estimates: Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2001) estimated the global population (defined as the number of adults and immatures at the start of the breeding season) in the range of 10,001 to 100,000 individuals. BirdLife International (2009) estimated the number of mature birds at 20,000 to 39,600 individuals, but noted that the supporting data for this estimate were poor. The European population was estimated at 4,000-4,700 breeding pairs (BirdLife International/European Bird Census Council 2000) and at 5,000-6,600 breeding pairs (BirdLife International 2004). more....

Important References: 
Cramp, S., and K.E.L. Simmons (eds.). 1980. Handbook of the birds of
  Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Vol. 2. Oxford University Press,
  Oxford, UK.
BirdLife International/European Bird Census Council. 2000. European bird
  populations: estimates and trends. BirdLife Conservation Series no. 10.
  BirdLife International,Cambridge, UK.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Fischer, W. 1970. [The sea eagles]. Neue Brehm Bücherei 221:1-146. A.
  Ziemsen Verlag, Wittenberg, Germany.
Helander, B., A. Olsson, A. Bignert, L. Asplund, and K. Litzén. 2003. SEA
  EAGLE 2000. Swedish Society for Nature Conservation/SNF and Atta. 45 Trykeri
  AB, Stockholm, Sweden.
Lerner, H.R., and D.P. Mindell. 2005. Phylogeny of eagles, Old World
  vultures, and other Accipitridae based on nuclear and mitochondrial DNA.
  Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 37:327-346.
Love, J.A. 1983. The return of the sea eagle. Cambridge University Press,
  Cambridge, UK.
Love, J.A. 1988. The re-introduction of the White-tailed Sea Eagle to
  Scotland: 1975-1987. Research and Survey in Nature Conservation no. 12.
  Nature Conservancy Council, Peterborough, UK.
Mizera, T. 1999. Bielik. Wydawnictwo Lubuskiego Klubu Przyrodnikow,
  Swiedodzin, Poland. (In Polish)
Orta, J. 1994. White-tailed Sea-eagle. P. 122 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.
Ueta, M., and M.J. McGrady (eds.). First symposium on Steller's and
  White-tailed Sea Eagles in East Asia. Wild Bird Society of
  Japan, Tokyo. 127 pp.
Willgohs, J.F. 1984. [White-tailed Sea Eagle in Norway]. Viiltrapport
  27:1-81. (In Norwegian)

Current Research: English Nature is conducting a feasibility study into the reintroduction of this species into Suffolk (British Birds 99:165. 2006), and the group Eryr Môr Cymru (Welsh Sea Eagles) was recently formed to consider a reintroduction project in North Wales (British Birds 99:328-332. 2006). Monitoring of the re-established breeding population in western Scotland continues by the Scottish Raptor Monitoring Group.

Sites of Interest:
Austrian White-tailed Eagle Project
Information on the distribution and population of the White-tailed Eagle in Austria and elsewhere.
Netherlands White-tailed Eagle nest cam
The first nesting pair in the Netherlands.
Projektgruppe Seeadlerschutz Schleswig-Holstein
Devoted to the conservation of White-tailed Eagles in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.
White-tailed Eagles in Ireland
Information on a project to re-establish a viable, self-sustaining breeding population of sea eagles in south-west Ireland after an absence of 110 years.
Komitet Ochrony Orlów
Devoted to the White-tailed Eagle in Poland.
Bleivergiftungen bei Seeadlern: Ursachen und Lösun
White-tailed Eagle studies in Germany, including research on contaminant effects.
Species account, with an emphasis on European populations.
White-tailed Eagle photos.
Hlghland Foundation for Wildlife
Supports reintroduction projects and satellite tracking studies.

Amar, Arjun
Debus, Stephen
Eulaers, Igor
Ford, Scott
Ivanovski, Vladimir
Jais, Markus
Katzner, Todd E.
Ma, Ming
Matz, Angela
Nadjafzadeh, Mirjam
Pickford, Terry
Pokrovsky, Ivan
Scholz, Friederike
Schröpfer, Libor
Tingay, Ruth
Todorov, Emil

Last modified: 3/16/2010

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 28 Nov. 2021

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