Pallas Sea-Eagle

Pallas Sea-Eagle


Profile Pallas Sea-Eagle
[order] Falconiformes |

[order] Falconiformes | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Haliaeetus leucoryphus | [UK] Pallas Sea-Eagle | [FR] Pygargue de Pallas | [DE] Bindenseeadler | [ES] Pigargo de Pallas | [IT] Aquila di mare di Pallas | [NL] Witbandzeearend

Witbandzeearend determination

copyright: J. del Hoyo

Large eagle with pale brownish hood and black-and-white tail. Adult dark brown, with warm buffish to whitish head, neck and upper mantle and blackish tail with broad, white central band. Juvenile more uniformly dark, with all-dark tail, but in flight shows strongly patterned underwing, with whitish band across coverts and prominent, whitish primary flashes. Similar spp. Grey-headed Fish Eagle Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus and White-tailed Eagle H. albicilla both lack combination of dark body, contrasting pale hood and black-and-white tail pattern.

Unlike White-tailed Eagle, virtually confined to continental lower middle latitudes near large inland seas, lakes, and rivers, but also makes use of smaller lakes, ponds, backwaters, and wetlands up to altitudes sometimes exceeding 4000 m.

The extralimital range of the species lies in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Iran and Afghanistan, the last two of which it visits as a non-breeding visitor (to the Seistan swamps, south Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf). Breeding has not been confirmed in Tajikistan, but passage and non-breeding visitors occur at water bodies in the south of the country and the Pamis mountains. Similarly, no nests are known in Uzbekistan, but breeding is considered probable on the eastern Aral Sea and in the Amudar’ya valley where there are (or were until recently) frequent sightings, although some of these probably refer to non-breeders or birds moving north after breeding in India. In Turkmenistan, too, records are considered to relate to dispersing non-breeders. In Kazakhstan Pallas’s Fish-eagle formerly summered regularly and in some numbers in the Volga_Ural steppes and it is generally more regular in the west of the country, over half of c.50 records during 1970_1995, including five in the breeding season, coming from the area between the Volga, Ural and Emba rivers.
There are further widespread reports of birds in summer from the north of the country (e.g. Turgay depression, Kurgal’dzhino) as well as the south and south-east. One was collected in the southern Altay in 1966, but none there in the period 1978_1986. There are few breeding records in Kazakhstan, where the range apparently once extended from the north-east shores of the Caspian Sea (last bred 1947) east to the Aral Sea, Syrdar’ya river and Balkhash lake_Ili river area. A nest was found even further east at Lake Markakol’ (Altay) in 1876. After dramatic declines in these areas, observations suggested breeding may have taken place on or near the Ili river in the 1980s: in the Ili valley close to the Malaysary mountains, two adults were recorded in May 1985, single birds in June 1985 and May 1986; some 100 km further east in the valley (near the Kalkany mountains), single birds were seen in July and August, and two displaying birds in August 1989. Stragglers have occurred elsewhere from Ukraine, Crimea, and the Sea of Azov to eastern Caucasus, but it is now only an accidental visitor to these regions. Similarly, it was once a regular winter visitor to Iraq in small numbers, but this no longer appears to be the case. It has occurred further west into several European countries as a vagrant, although there appear to be no recent records. The population is likely to be

The breeding season also varies geographically, beginning in March in the north of the range, but in early November in the south. Nests are built by both the male and female of a monogamous pair at the highest point of trees that stand on the banks of rivers or close to lakes. In Mongolia and southern Kazakhstan, nests may also be built on the ground next to lakes. Constructed over the course of a month, the nest consists of a huge platform of sticks lined with hay, rushes, straw, fine twigs and green leaves. One to three eggs are laid, hatching 40 – 45 days later, each a couple of days apart. Invariably, the last chick to hatch will die, as it cannot compete effectively with its older siblings for food from its parents. Both the male and female care for the chicks, bringing food to the nest and defending them from predators. Once fledged, the young will remain in the vicinity of the nest until they are skilled at flying

This species is inferred to have a small, declining population as a result of widespread loss, degradation and disturbance of wetlands and breeding sites throughout its range. It therefore qualifies as Vulnerable. [conservation status from]

With tendencies towards piracy, the Pallas’s fish-eagle is opportunistic and generalist in its feeding habits, feeding on both live prey and carrion, and forcing other birds to surrender their prey. The Pallas’s fish-eagle will even steal fish from fish farms and fishermen. It feeds mainly on fish, capturing them at the water’s surface rather than plunge-diving. It is also known to consume frogs, turtles, reptiles, waterfowl and nestling birds. Diet composition varies widely with region, being entirely made up of frogs and turtles in one region, but entirely of waterfowl in a fishless lake in the Punjab Salt Range.

Little known; evidently migratory or partially migratory in regions of climatic extremes, mainly resident or dispersive elsewhere. Few individuals over-winter in northern parts of breeding range where rivers freeze; and normally ranges south to Iran (south Caspian, Seistan, Persian Gulf), Afghanistan (Seistan), and probably to Indian subcontinent where presumed presence masked by large winter-breeding local populations. Breeds India October-February, then disappears from lowlands for hottest months large numbers of non-breeding summer visitors (June-July) on plateau lakes of west Tibet may be linked to this exodus.
Autumn dispersal USSR begins October in central Kazakhstan. Spring return to some extent dependent on thawing of rivers; reappears Syr-Dar’ya river in February and begins breeding there March, but northward movement continues April-May and these presumed immatures.


  1. Measurements
  2. spanwidth min.: 200 cm
  3. spanwidth max.: 250 cm
  4. size min.: 76 cm
  5. size max.: 84 cm
  6. Breeding
  7. incubation min.: 38 days
  8. incubation max.: 42 days
  9. fledging min.: 70 days
  10. fledging max.: 105 days
  11. broods 1
  12. eggs min.: 2
  13. eggs max.: 4
  14. Conservation Status
  15. Witbandzeearend status Vulnerable
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