Pallas’s fish-eagle (Haliaeetus leucoryphus)

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Pallas's fish-eagle perched in tree
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Pallas’s fish-eagle fact file

Pallas’s fish-eagle description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderFalconiformes
FamilyAccipitridae
GenusHaliaeetus (1)

This large fishing eagle is mainly dark brown, with a light brown to white head and neck and a slightly darker area between the shoulders. The tail is nearly black and is crossed by a broad, white band, giving this eagle its name. Juveniles are dark all over, except for white markings patterning the undersides of the wings, most easily visible in flight. Adults call with a loud ‘kha-kha-kha-kha(2).

Also known as
Band-tailed fish-eagle.
Spanish
Pigargo de Pallas.
Size
Length: 76 – 84 cm (2)
Wingspan: 180 – 205 cm (3)
Weight
2.0 – 3.7 kg (3)
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Pallas’s fish-eagle biology

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 (6).

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 to 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 (6).

Whilst this species is known to be migratory, its movements are not understood. Individuals from regions with climatic extremes, where lakes and rivers may freeze over during winter, are more likely to migrate south in the non-breeding season. Some individuals from a given area might be residents, while others from the same region are migratory, leading to confusion over the purpose of the migrations and the cues that trigger them (6).

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Pallas’s fish-eagle range

The Pallas’s fish-eagle has a large range from Kazakhstan, southern Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan to Mongolia and China, and south to northern India, Pakistan Bhutan, Bangladesh and Burma. It is a migratory species, and may be found as a migrant or as a winter visitor in Nepal and Afghanistan. The main breeding areas are thought to be in China, Mongolia and the Indian subcontinent. The Pallas’s fish-eagle population is believed to have declined considerably in China, Pakistan, India, Nepal and Bangladesh during the 20th Century (2).

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Pallas’s fish-eagle habitat

Inhabits wetlands, mainly large lakes and rivers, both in the lowlands and at altitudes of up to 5,000 metres. The Pallas’s fish-eagle nests in trees near water and on cliffs in upland regions (2).

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Pallas’s fish-eagle status

The Pallas’s fish-eagle is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1) and is listed on Appendix II of CITES (4). It is also listed on Appendix I of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS or Bonn Convention) (5).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable

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Pallas’s fish-eagle threats

As with many eagles with large territories and varied habitat requirements, the major threat to the Pallas’s fish-eagle is habitat loss and degradation as a result of wetland drainage, agricultural expansion and human settlement. Large trees are often felled, leaving fewer nesting sites, and pollution of wetlands with pesticides and industrial runoff decreases breeding success. Prolific hunting and fishing has also reduced prey populations, leaving too little food to support these eagles. In India, the spread of an introduced water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) has prevented eagles from catching fish, and siltation of lakes following deforestation has reduced fish populations. In Burma these threats are compounded by the development of oil and gas fields (6).

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Pallas’s fish-eagle conservation

The Pallas’s fish-eagle occurs in many protected areas across its range, but little conservation action has been targeted exclusively at this species. Proposed management of this species and its habitat includes surveys to establish the range, status and threats, protection of key populations, sustainable wetland management, limited use of pollutants near wetlands and control of water hyacinths (6).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For further information on the band-tailed fish-eagle see:

  • BirdLife International. (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk
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Glossary

Carrion
Dead flesh.
Monogamous
Having only one mate during a breeding season, or throughout the breeding life of a pair.
Territories
Areas occupied and defended by an animal, a pair of animals or a colony.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2008)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Bird Life International (February, 2005)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/search/species_search.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=3363&m=0
  3. Eagles of the World (May, 2008)
    http://www.eagle72.se/eagles_of_the_world/sea_and_fish_eagles.htm
  4. CITES (February, 2005)
    http://www.cites.org
  5. Global Register of Migratory Species (May, 2008)
    http://www.groms.de
  6. BirdLife International. (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.
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Image credit

Pallas's fish-eagle perched in tree  
Pallas's fish-eagle perched in tree

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