Booted eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus)

Also known as: Booted hawk eagle
Synonyms: Aquila pennatus
French: Aigle botté
GenusHieraaetus (1)

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (2).

The booted eagle is a small, stocky eagle with a rounded head and heavily feathered legs (3). It occurs in two main colour forms that are almost identical above but differ in the shading of the underparts (3) (4). Above, the two forms are mainly brown, except for a light-streaked forecrown, cream to golden hind-crown, distinctive light panels on the wing coverts, and white patches resembling ‘headlights’ where the wings meet the body. However, whereas the pale form has a largely creamy-white underbody, the dark form usually has a dark brown underbody, with variable dark and light streaks and spots, and in some individuals, a slight rufous tinge (4). The sexes are similar in appearance, but the female is on average ten percent larger than the male, while the juvenile plumage of both forms differs only very subtly from that of the adults (3) (4). There are three subspecies of the booted eagle: Hieraaetus pennatus pennatus; H. p. harterti; and H. p. minisculus.

Hieraaetus pennatus pennatus occurs in southern Europe and North Africa, east to central Asia; H. p. harterti occupies southwestern and central Asia; and H. p. minisculus is found in southern Africa (5).

Not surprisingly, given its extensive range, the booted eagle is found in a wide range of habitats from woodland and plantations to grassland and desert (5).

Northern populations of the booted eagle feed mainly on small birds, mammals and reptiles, while in Africa, rodents form the bulk of its diet. Although birds are frequently caught on the wing, the booted eagle typically soars at height, swooping down to take prey off the ground (5).

The nesting behaviour of the booted eagle also varies slightly across its range, with northern populations tending to build a nest in a tree or on the ledge of a cliff, whilst southern African populations only nest on cliffs (3) (5). There is usually just a single clutch of one to three eggs each year, which are incubated, predominately by the female, for around 35 days. The young normally fledge around 50 days after hatching (5).

The seasonal movements of the booted eagle are highly complex with European populations overwintering as far south as southern Africa, whist other populations appear to remain in the same area year round (5).

The booted eagle is generally widespread and common (6), but local declines have occurred (4), probably as result of various factors including habitat loss, persecution, and pesticide use.

There are currently no known conservation measures in place for the booted eagle.

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  1. IUCN Red List (July, 2014)