Greater Spotted Eagle, Lophaetus clanga

Greater Spotted Eagle

Greater Spotted Eagle, India, January 2011, © Markus Jais

Names

English: Greater Spotted Eagle
Scientific: Lophaetus clanga, Aquila clanga
German: Schelladler
Spanish: Águila moteada
French: Aigle criard

Taxonomy and Subspecies

Closest relatives are the Lesser Spotted Eagle, the Indian Spotted Eagle Aquila hastata and the Long-crested Eagle Lophaetus occipitalis from Africa. Currently the Greater Spotted eagle is either placed in the Genus Lophaetus or Aquila.
Hybridization with the Lesser Spotted Eagle does occur [GRIN 2009].

No subspecies.

Size

Length: 62-75 cm
Wingspan: 160-182 cm
Weight: Male 1,600-2,000 g, Female 1,770-3,100 g

Maximum Age

Unknown. [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]

Habitat

Prefers remote areas with no or only few humans. During the breeding seasons, the Greater Spotted Eagle lives in a mixture of wet deciduous forests and open areas like wet meadows, swamps and marshes.
Outside the breeding season also occurs in more open and drier habitat [GRIN 2009].

Distribution

Breeds from eastern Europe eastwards to Siberia and China. In Europe the species breeds in the Baltic States, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, eastern Poland and maybe in Moldova and Romania. Also occurred in Finland with 1-2 pairs.
In Germany there are two cases in recent years with a mixed pair of a Greater Spotted Eagle and a Lesser Spotted Eagle.

Migration

Migratory species, but not as extrem as the Lesser Spotted Eagle. Most European birds spend the winter in the Middle East and north-eastern Africa and some spend the winter in Greece and Turkey. Occasionally birds stay even in Italy or France during the Winter [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].
On average, leaves the breeding territories later than the Lesser Spotted Eagle

Breeding and Reproduction

Probably does net breed before 4 or 5 years old [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].
Nests are built on trees. Normally 2 eggs are laid, rarely 1 or 3. Incubation time about 42 days and the young stay in the next for about 63 - 67 days [GRIN 2009].
After hatching, the older nestling often kills the second born. This is called Cainism. But in some cases two young fledge. This seems to occur more often than with the Lesser Spotted Eagle [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].

Food and hunting

Hunts mostly small mammals (e.g. voles, hamsters or susliks) and birds like coots, rails or ducks. During the breeding season, often hunts the easy to catch young of those birds. Other prey includes lizards, snakes, frogs, fish. Also takes carrion.
In many areas, the Northern Water Vole Arvicola terrestris is especially important [GRIN 2009]. In Africa, locusts can be an important prey [Mebs and Schmidt 2006].
Hunts from flight, from a perch or on foot.

Population

On of the rarest and most endangered raptors in Europe. Has declined considerably in the last 3 decads. Outside Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union, the population is below 100 pairs.
Poland has about 15-20 pairs, Ukraine 30-45, Estonia 15-30, Belarus 150-200 and Russia between 600 and 800 [BirdLife 2004].

Threats

The large decline in Russia in the 1960s was probably because of the use zinc phosphide of which was used to kill European Water Vole which is an important prey of the Greater Spotted Eagle. Zinc phosphide is very dangerous for birds [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].
Other threats to the Greater Spotted Eagle are habitat destruction, for example the drainage of wetlands or deforestation. Illegal killing, for example during migration, can also be a problem. Disturbance during the breeding season can result in breeding failure.

Conservation

The illegal killing, no matter where, must be stopped. Important habitat must be protected. The Greater Spotted Eagle is an umbrella species. In it's habitat, many other endangered species live. If large range of habitat for the species can be protect, many other species will benefit.
More research about threats in the breeding areas but also during migration and in the winter quarters is needed [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]. Extensive agriculture that supports a wide variety of prey and does not use pesticides should be encouraged across the species range.

Status IUCN/BirdLife

Vulnerable (VU)

Status Global Raptor Information Network

Vulnerable

References

[BirdLife International 2004] BirdLife International. 2004. Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status. BirdLife Interntional. Cambridge, UK. (Greater Spotted Eagle species account available at: http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/BirdsInEuropeII/BiE2004Sp3531.pdf

[GRIN 2009] Global Raptor Information Network. 2009. Species account: Greater Spotted Eagle Lophaetus clanga. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 11 May. 2009

[Mebs & Schmidt 2006] Mebs, Theodor & Schmidt, Daniel (2006). Die Greifvögel Europas, Nordafrikas und Vorderasiens. Kosmos Verlag.

Books

Forsman, Dick (1999). The Raptors of Europe and the Middle East A Handbook of Field Identification. Poyser

Mebs, Theodor & Schmidt, Daniel (2006). Die Greifvögel Europas, Nordafrikas und Vorderasiens. Kosmos Verlag.

Websites

Greater Spotted Eagle LIFE project in Poland

BirdLife Species Factsheet for the Greater Spotted Eagle

GRIN species account for the Greater Spotted Eagle