Lesser Spotted Eagle, Lophaetus pomarina

Lesser Spotted Eagle

Lesser Spotted Eagle, South Africa, January 2012. © Markus Jais

Names

English: Lesser Spotted Eagle
Scientific: Lophaetus pomarina, Aquila pomarina
German: Schreiadler
Spanish: Águila pomerana
French: Aigle pomerana

Taxonomy and Subspecies

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

The Indian Spotted Eagle Aquila hastata from the Indian Subcontinent is no longer treated as a subspecies but now as a full species.

Size

Length: 61-66 cm
Wingspan: 146-168 cm
Weight: Male 1,053-1,509 g, Female 1,195-2,160 g

Maxium Age

26 years in the wild. [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]

Habitat

Lesser Spotted Eagles in Europe mostly breed in moist lowland forests. In Caucasia the species is found in dry upland forests [GRIN 2009].
The eagles prefer well structured deciduous forests mixed with wet areas like wet meadows or alder swamps [Gronewold 2009]. The habitat should be free of too much disturbance. Intensively managed forests are avoided.
Beside the forests, open habitat for hunting is used. Extensively used meadows and moors are preferred hunting habitat, but uses also agricultural fields.

Distribution

Breeding distribution restricted to eastern Europa. The most western pairs are found in north-eastern Germany. From there eastwards until western Russia (only a small area in Russia). Also in south-eastern Europa ( for example in Romania, Bulgaria), and from Turkey eastwards to the Caucasus.
Spends the winder in east and south Africa.

Migration

The Lesser Spotted Eagle is a strictly migratory species that spends the winter in Africa south of the Sahara. Since satellite transmitters became small enough to be fitted on medium-sized eagles, a lot of new information has been gained about the migration of Lesser Spotted Eagles.

Breeding and Reproduction

Probably does not breed before 4 or 5 years old.
The nest is usually built in a tree not to far away from the forest edge. Both deciduous and coniferous trees are used.
The female lays 1 - 3 eggs, normally 2. The eggs are incubated for about 6 weeks.
Cainism, that is, the killing of the 2nd born eagle by it's older sibling is very common in the Lesser Spotted Eagle (more common than in larger eagles like the Eastern Imperial Eagle or even the Golden Eagle). Only rarely do 2 eagles fledge. [Mebs and Schmidt 2006] write, that in Poland, from almost 300 nests, only in 9 did 2 eagles fledge. In Hungary, 2 eagles left the nest in 2 out of 52 nests. In Belarus one pair out of 48 raised two chicks.
The fledged eagle is dependent on it's parents for another 3-4 weeks and is provided with food until it leaves for migration. Normally, the young eagle leaves the breeding area before it's parents and on it's own [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].

Food and hunting

For an eagle, the Lesser Spotted Eagle takes rather small prey. Voles and hamsters are very important, but also takes other mammals up to the size of young hares. Amphibian are important, too. Birds are also taken, especially young birds who are not yet able to fly or just fledged and are not yet very good flyers. Reptiles are taken sometimes and can even be the most important prey [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]. In Africa, insects are often taken, for example termites. Another valuable food source in Africa can be colonies of queleas like the Red-billed Quelea Quelea quelea [GRIN 2009].

Population

Threats

Habitat destruction in the breeding areas is a serious threat. Forests are managed more intensively in many areas then they used to. Marshes and wet meadows are drained and turned into intensively used agricultural fields. New streets are build through forests which causes disturbance. Recreational activities can also cause disturbance during the breeding season. The Lesser Spotted Eagle is very sensitive when it comes to disturbance.
Another serious threat is (illegal) shooting during migration.
Windfarms can kill the eagles or keep them from breeding or hunting too close to them. This can make an otherwise suitable habitat useless for the eagles.

Conservation

The killing during migration must be stopped. Lesser Spotted Eagles reproduce only slowly and if too many are killed during migration, the population will suffer. In order to stop the killing during migration, international collaboration is important. Research (for example tracking birds with satellite transmitters) can help to identify the areas where the eagles are shot. Laws must be enforced in those countries.
In the breeding territories, the areas around the nests must be kept free of disturbance. Management of the forests must respect the eagles. Forests should be managed in an ecological and sustainable way. Protected areas can help but not all of the breeding areas can be turned into national parks. The areas around the nests should be kept free of any forest work during the breeding period. In some countries, special zones around the nests are enforced by law. This can be very effective.
Wet meadows and marshes must be protected and should not be turned into fields. Farmers who help to protect important hunting habitat for the eagles can be paid by the authorities or nature conservation organisations to compensate for financial losses.
Windfarms and streets should not be build close to eagle nests or hunting territories.
In Germany a program by the Deutche Wildtier Stiftung [DeWiSt 2009] tries to increase the breeding success by taking the second born eagle (which is normally killed by the first born) out of the nest soon after hatching and raise it by hand. A few weeks later the bird is put back in the nest. At this time, the first born is no longer aggressive and two eagles can fledge. This can be an important measure to stabilize or even increase the currently small German population. In the long term, the conservation of suitable habitat is critical for the survival of the Lesser Spotted Eagle in Germany.

Status IUCN/BirdLife

Least Concern (LC)

Status Global Raptor Information Network

Lower risk

Interviews about the Lesser Spotted Eagle

Interview with Daróczi J. Szilárd and Zeitz Róbert about the Lesser Spotted Eagle in Romania

Interview with Britta Gronewold from NABU/BirdLife Germany about the conservation of the Lesser Spotted Eagle in Germany

References

[DeWiSt 2009] Lesser Spotted Eagle Conservation Programm by the Deutsche Wildtier Stiftung. Downloaded from http://www.deutschewildtierstiftung.de/projekte/schreiadler/index.php on 5 September, 2009

[GRIN 2009] Global Raptor Information Network. 2009. Species account: Lesser Spotted Eagle Lophaetus pomarina. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 31 Aug. 2009

[Gronewold 2009]. Interview with Britta Gronewold from NABU/BirdLife Germany about the conservation of the Lesser Spotted Eagle in Germany on europeanraptors.org

[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.

Wernicke, Peter. 2009. Schreiadler - Vogel ohne Lebensraum. Hinstorff. Rostock.

Websites

Conservation of Aquila Pomarina in Romania

BirdLife Species Factsheet for the Lesser Spotted Eagle

GRIN species account for the Lesser Spotted Eagle

schreiadlerschutz.de - Lesser Spotted Eagle Conservation by NABU/BirdLife Germany

Lesser Spotted Eagle Conservation by Deutsche Wildtier Stiftung (German Wildlife Foundation)