Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Eagles of the World: White-bellied Sea Eagle

The White-bellied Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leucogoster is also known as the “White-breasted Sea Eagle” due to the white plumage on the head, breast, under-wing coverts, and wedge-shaped tail.

Photo of a White-bellied Sea Eagle as seen from below (photo: The Wikipedia files)

In contrast to their white plumage the tops of their wings are mostly gray with black flight feathers.  Their beaks are mostly a bluish-grey with a darker hooked tip.  In addition, they have yellowish-grey legs and feet, long black talons, and brown eyes. 

Moreover, these one-of-a-kind birds are known as one of the largest raptors in Southeast Asia.  Like most raptors the female is larger than the male with a wingspan that can reach up to seven feet.  Juveniles often have brown plumage until the age of 5 or 6 years, when their dark feathers are replaced with white feathers.

This photo of a White-bellied Sea Eagle shows his beautiful plumage (photo: The Wikipedia files)

About half of the White-bellied Sea Eagle’s diet consists of fish, which is why they choose to hunt and breed near water.  Although this raptor prefers fish it is an opportunistic hunter and will eat whatever is available.  Therefore, its diet also consists of carrion and whatever else they can find. 

The White-bellied Sea Eagle seemingly uses a unique hunting technique when catching fish.  It will most often fly into the sun or at a right angle to the sun to avoid casting a shadow that may alert its potential next meal.  White-breasted Sea Eagles have also been known to harass other smaller raptors, forcing them to give up the food they are carrying.  They may even steal food from their own species, including their own mate.

The White-bellied Sea Eagle has a unique hunting technique (photo: The Wikipedia files)

The breeding season of these raptors differs depending on the location which they inhabit.  A pair will spend around three to six weeks constructing a nest before laying any eggs.  It is common that the female will lay a clutch of two off white colored oval eggs, which she will incubate for a period of six weeks.  It is rare that both eggs will hatch due to infertility; although, if the first clutch is not a success the pair will attempt a second brood. 

The nestlings are recorded to fledge (make their first flight) at around 70 – 80 days, although they will stay close to the nest for another 6 months, or until the next breeding season has begun.

Submitted by Callie Plakovic, World Bird Sanctuary Outreach Coordinator

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