copyright: Josep del Hoyo
Medium-sized, dark eagle. Adult dark brown with slightly paler flight feathers. Underwing-coverts generally darker than flight feathers. Bands of white spots across upperwing of juveniles. In gliding flight, often depresses “hands”. Similar spp. Lesser Spotted Eagle A. pomarina is slightly smaller, narrower winged and less stocky. Plumage generally paler and most show contrast between paler underwing and upperwing-coverts and darker flight feathers. Confusion is also possible with adult Steppe Eagle A. nipalenis, Tawny Eagle A. rapax and Imperial Eagle A. heliaca. Voice Barking kyak during breeding.
Compared with the similar Lesser Spotted Eagle and other large raptors, the species is very poorly known. During the breeding season it is an essentially dispersed species nesting at very low densities. At this time the species needs large wet forests bordering humid meadows, bogs, marshes and other wetlands. It mainly breeds in deciduous lowland forests, but sometimes in mountain forests, up to 1000 m above sea-level.
During migration and wintering a variety of habitats is used – open landscapes, shrubland, and wetlands – but very little is known about habitat requirements and ecology during this period, which extends over half of the year. There may be regular concentrations of birds in certain wintering areas.
This globally threatened eagle inhabits humid forests and swamp forests from Central Europe to China. It hunts in the swamps and wet meadows and along the adjacent rivers. Its winter quarters are mainly in south-western Asia, from Turkey to Arabia and India, and in north-eastern Africa. Since the beginning of this century it undergoes a constant decline and contraction of its breeding area. Its total European population is estimated at 875 breeding pairs, 800 of which inhabit Russia (EBCC Atlas of European Breeding Birds). The Greater Spotted Eagle is distributed from eastern Poland and the Kaliningrad area to the Pacific Ocean, in south-east Siberia and Manchuria. In Europe it occurs as a breeding species in Belarus, Finland (?), Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania (?), the Russian Federation and Ukraine.
Very variable, depending on availability of prey species. Mainly small mammals, birds, amphibians, lizards, snakes, small fish, carrion and sometimes insects. Diet generally similar to that of the Lesser Spotted Eagle, but often more and larger birds taken.
There is anecdotal evidence that this species’s small population is declining, at a rate likely to exceed 10% in three generations, which qualifies it as Vulnerable. It has suffered from extensive habitat loss and persistent persecution. [conservation status from birdlife.org]
The Greater Spotted Eagle builds a large nest of sticks on trees below the canopy, mostly in deciduous forest and only rarely in coniferous forest.
The clutch most often consists of two, often of only one, and very rarely of 3 eggs. Breeding success is around 0.6-0,7 young per breeding attempt. Breeding probably starts with the laying of the first egg and takes about six weeks. After hatching chicks stay in the nest for circa 63-67 days. There is a high level of unsuccessful pairs. As with the Lesser Spotted Eagle the species’ breeding is characterised by Cainism, whereby the older chick kills its sibling within the first weeks after hatching.
Adult plumage is acquired after several (probably 4) years. Greater Spotted Eagles build their own nest, but often use nests of other large birds (e.g. Black Stork, Common Buzzard, Lesser Spotted Eagle).
The Greater Spotted Eagle is a migratory bird, wintering in southern Europe, southern Asia, the Middle East and Africa as far south as Uganda and Kenya (exceptionally Zambia). There is very little published information about its migration. The species leaves breeding grounds mid-Sept to mid-Oct. In Slovakia and Hungary, adults often seem to remain at or near breeding areas.
- spanwidth min.: 153 cm
- spanwidth max.: 177 cm
- size min.: 59 cm
- size max.: 69 cm
- incubation min.: 42 days
- incubation max.: 44 days
- fledging min.: 60 days
- fledging max.: 65 days
- broods 1
- eggs min.: 1
- eggs max.: 3
- Conservation Status