Thursday, January 8, 2015

Eagles of the World: Madagascar Fish Eagle

The Madagascar Fish Eagle has been described as one of the rarest birds on Earth with only about 40 breeding pairs in existence today.

A rare Madagascar Fish Eagle (photo: The wikipedia files)

The Madagascar Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vociferoides) is a large diurnal bird of prey that surprisingly resides within the Madagascar dry deciduous forests.  No irony there.  They are actually confined to Madagascar where they survive in small quantity along the west coast

This eagle is considered a medium size eagle with a wingspan averaging around 65-70 inches long.  Male Madagascar Fish Eagles have been recorded weighing anywhere up to 6 pounds, while the slightly larger females can weigh up to 8 pounds.

The Madagascar Fish Eagle feeds mostly on fish and other aquatic life (photo: The wikipedia files)

These birds are characterized by having a dark body and wings, a light brown head with a white throat and cheeks, a white tail, a dark grey colored beak with a paler base, and pale grey legs.  Unlike adult Madagascar Fish Eagles the juveniles have paler bellies with yellow markings, a dark tail, and streaking on their heads.  It is not until a juvenile has reached five years of age that they develop their full adult plumage.

These Eagles, being endemic to the island of Madagascar, mostly feed on fish and other aquatic life, such as crabs and turtles.
These rare birds of prey face diminishing numbers due to many threats to its breeding habitat, including deforestation, soil erosion, and the development of wetland areas for rice paddies.  Not only does this raptor have to face the significant impacts from losing its habitat, but also faces harsh competition for fish from human competitors.

Two Madagascar Fish Eagles(photo: The wikipedia files)

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, also known as the IUCN, this species holds the rank of critically endangered.  According to this index this species has been assigned this rank because it is facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild.
The Madagascar Fish Eagle population has remained at low numbers for what some believe to be hundreds to even thousands of years.  This means that although the population is small, it may also be stable, which will hopefully lead to a less critical ranking in the near future.

Even though the World Bird Sanctuary does not have one of these rare eagles in our collection, we do have two of its cousins—the Bald Eagle and the White-tailed Sea Eagle on the exhibit line, which is open to the public 363 days of the year.   

Submitted by Callie Plakovic, World Bird Sanctuary Outreach Coordinator

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