The sea eagle is a massive, majestic bird. Its body length is from 70 to 110 cm (28–40 in), the wingspan is 2-2.5 m (5 ft 11 in and 7 ft 7 in), the weight is in the range from 2 to 7 kg (4 lb – 15 lb). The beak is large, hooked, the tail and wings are wide, the legs are strong, without plumage, with curved long claws. The pads on the paws are rough, which is necessary for the bird to hold slippery prey (primarily fish). The plumage is mostly brown, with some parts of the body white. In some species, white plumage of the head, shoulders, tail, body is found. The beak is yellow.
Sexual dimorphism is weak. It consists mainly in the difference in the size of females and males. But sea eagles have moved away from the general natural rule. Their females are larger than males (15-20 percent).
Habitat of sea eagles
These birds of prey are widespread, almost everywhere except Antarctica and South America. The most common is the white-tailed eagle, which lives almost everywhere where there is fresh or salt water. The Steller’s sea eagle is found mainly on the Pacific coast. The bald eagle lives in North America, sometimes flying to the Pacific coast, it is considered a symbol of the United States and is depicted on the coat of arms and other state signs.
Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus).
Females are larger in size than males, they are the same in plumage. The wings are wide, rounded, the tail is of medium length, wedge-shaped. The beak is large, hooked, golden yellow in color. There are growths on the superciliary arches of the skull. Paws are not feathered, yellow. The iris is yellow. The bald eagle is found in Canada and the United States, and occasionally in Mexico. The bird also nests on the islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon. For life, he prefers the shores of oceans, estuaries, large lakes or rivers. Seasonal migrations depend on whether the water bodies in the region of each particular population freeze over.
Steller’s sea eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus).
The plumage of adult birds combines dark brown color with white. In young birds, buffy streaks are pronounced, which disappear until the age of 3 years. The iris is light brown, the beak is yellowish-brown, large, the legs are yellow with black claws. The species is common on the Kamchatka Peninsula, along the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk, in the Koryak Highlands, along the Amur, on Sakhalin, the Shantar and Kuril Islands, and in Korea.
White-bellied eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster).
The distinctive features of the white-bellied eagle are the head, breast, coverts under the wings and a white tail. The back and wings are gray above. The tail is short, wedge-shaped. In young birds, the plumage color is brown, it becomes white gradually, by 5-6 years. The species lives on the sea coasts of tropical regions of Asia, New Guinea, Australia and Tasmania.
The white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) is the fourth largest bird of prey in Europe. The female is usually larger than the males. The tail is short, wedge-shaped. Adults are brownish with a yellowish head and neck, and a white tail. The beak is powerful, light yellow. The eyes are yellow. Feathers are not feathered. Young birds are dark brown with a dark gray beak.
Pallas’s fish eagle
Pallas’s fish eagle (Haliaeetus leucoryphus), also known as Pallas’s sea eagle or band-tailed fish eagle. The bird has a bright brown hood, a white face, dark brown wings, and a red back. The tail is black with a white stripe in the middle. Young growth is monophonic, dark, without a strip on the tail.
The habitat of the species includes Central Asia, from the Caspian and Yellow Seas, Kazakhstan and Mongolia to the Himalayan mountains, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh. The species is partly migratory.
African fish eagle
The African fish eagle is an African resident. Its ability to emit unusual screams is reflected even in
its Latin name: Haliaeetus voicifer. Breeds throughout Africa except for the Sahara.
Madagascan fish eagle
The Madagascan fish eagle, or Madagascar sea-eagle is an island inhabitant in the Indian Ocean. In Latin it is called Haliaeetus vociferoides. It is an endemic species. It lives in the tropical deciduous forests of Madagascar. It is unknown if this species exists now. In 1980, scientists counted only 25 pairs.
Sanford’s sea eagle (Haliaeetus sanfordi) breeds chicks in the Solomon Islands. In whose honor it is sometimes called. It is endemic. Described only in 1935. During this time, Dr. Leonard Sanford was the trustee of the American Society for Natural History. For nesting, it prefers the coastline, which rises significantly above the water.
The nature and lifestyle of the sea eagle
Birds are diurnal, hunt and go about their business during daylight hours. In flight, three main types
of behavior can be distinguished – hover, active flight and dive. In order to fly around its territory and spy out the intended prey, the bird uses a soaring flight, gliding along the ascending air currents holding its wide wings. When the eagle has noticed its prey, it can quickly get close to it, actively flapping its wings and developing a speed of up to 40 km/h (25 mph), but, if necessary, from a great height, they develop a speed of up to 100 km/h (60 mph).
What does the sea eagle eat?
The bodies of water are the main sources of their food. Birds of prey feed on fish and waterfowl. They give preference to large fish, weighing about 2-3 kg, such as coho salmon, pike, pink salmon, carp, sockeye salmon, carp, various catfish, Pacific herring, mullet, trout. The sea eagle also feeds on birds that live near water bodies – duck, gulls, herons, coots. Small mammals are also included in the menu, these are hares, raccoons, squirrels, rats. The sea eagle can also catch various snakes, frogs, crustaceans, turtles and others, but they are of much lesser interest to him. Carrion is also suitable for food, birds do not disdain whales, fish, corpses of various animals thrown ashore.
In addition, as a large predator, the sea eagle considers it not shameful to take away prey from smaller and weaker hunters, or even steal from its own gaping fellows.
Like other birds of this species, eagles are monogamous. But, if one bird dies, the second finds a replacement for it. The same happens if the “family” is unable to produce offspring. Eagles’ nests are found on dead trees or their dry tops, since living thin branches cannot withstand the weight
of a huge nest. The nest is built by the female, and the male brings her building material. Every year the eagles renew and complete their nest.
In one clutch, a female eagle has 1 to 3 eggs, which she incubates for 34 to 38 days. Chicks are born, covered with white fluff, absolutely helpless. The female protects them, while the male gets food – fish and meat. As a rule, one chick, the largest and strongest, survives from the brood. At the age of 3 months, young eagles take their wings, but for several months they remain close to their parents. Eagles reach sexual maturity at the age of 4 years. Their lifespan is about 20 years in the wild, and up to 50-60 years in captivity.
Enemies in the wild
For eagles, only man is dangerous. These predators are extremely sensitive to disturbance during the incubation period. They are often shot by poachers for entertainment and trophies. Eagles’ nests are killed by fires and deforestation. High-voltage power lines pose a particular danger to eagles, upon contact with which they die from electric shock.
Interesting eagle facts
- Since 1782, the eagle has become the official national bird of the United States, its images are placed on the coat of arms, presidential standard, banknotes, logos of national corporations.
- Over the past two centuries, there has been a decrease in the population of eagles due to their mass extermination and human economic activity. In the United States, laws have been introduced that prohibit the killing and possession of eagles.
- The ban on the use of insecticides and protective measures are leading to a gradual restoration of the number of birds.
- The Indians considered the bald eagle to be a sacred bird, a spiritual messenger between gods and man.
- With a lack of food, the white-tailed eagle can starve for a long time – up to 45 days.