White-bellied sea eagle

448px-Haliaeetus_leucogaster_-Gippsland,_Victoria,_Australia-8

Profile

The white bellied sea eagle is a large bird of prey living in the south Pacific. The green areas in the range map show where this animal lives on land. As you can tell by the map and by this animal’s name, white bellied sea eagles live near the ocean. They are sometimes also seen quite a ways inland, however. These birds are mostly monochromatic, being white, gray, and black. In general, their beaks are dark and their legs are creamy colored. Pretty much the only part of an adult white bellied sea eagle that is not gray scale is their eyes which are brown.

1280px-Haliaeetus_leucogaster_distr

Size

White bellied sea eagles are one of the largest raptors in the south Pacific and the second largest birds of prey in Australia. Females are slightly larger than males. Adults range from 27-33 inches (70-85 cm) in length and have wingspans ranging from 170-87 inches (180-220 cm). This last measurement is over seven feet tall, more than one foot (30 cm) longer than most humans are tall! Males can weigh up to eight pounds (3.7 kg) while females can grow up to nine pounds (4.2 kg).

Diet

These eagle eat many different kinds of animals. Since they live near the ocean, some of their main prey includes fish and sea snakes. They catch these by skimming over the water and grabbing on to their prey with their talons. Unlike some other oceanic birds of prey, white bellied sea eagles will not dive beneath the surface in order to get food. Although aquatic animals make up most of this bird’s diet, birds, mammals, turtles, and carrion may even become food for these eagles. In some regions they are reported to prey on possums, and they will attack birds up to swan size. Sometimes they will harass smaller birds of prey and force them to drop  the food they are carrying. White bellied sea eagles also sometimes raid fishermen’s nets.

In culture

This eagle has significance in many different cultures in the South Pacific. On Nissan island, this animal is considered special and is not allowed to be killed. At night, their calls are said to foretell danger, and a group of them passing overhead is thought to signify that someone has died. The white bellied sea eagle is the symbol of one state in Malaysia. In Singapore, this animal is depicted on the $10,000 bill.

Status and threats

The IUCN redlist states that this animal is Least Concern. The population of the white bellied sea eagle, however, is known to be decreasing in many areas. Some of this is thought to be due to humans disturbing nesting pairs. The pairs then may abandon their nests if human activity is sensed nearby. Habitat loss, poisoning, hunting, and water pollution are other threats that hurt the white bellied sea eagle population.

Mating, eggs, and young

In Southern Australia, this animal’s breeding season lasts from June to February, while in Northern Australia it lasts from May through October. Their nests are very large and can be up to ten feet (3 m) across and 13 feet (4 m) deep! These nests are built with sticks and lined with leaves, grass, and seaweed. The nests are usually built in tall trees near a water source.

After mating, the female lays from one to three eggs, with two being the most common clutch size. For six weeks both parents incubate the eggs. Although the male sits on them sometimes, the female is the normal incubator. After hatching, the young are fed by their parents. Studies have shown that white bellied eagle chicks fed on snakes are more likely to survive than those fed on other foods. Because of this, the adults will probably do their best to catch snakes for their young. Click here to see a video of these birds hunting sea-snakes and feeding them to their young.

About 65 to 70 days after hatching, the young leave the nest for their first time. Typically only one chick out of every clutch of two will mature enough to learn to fly. If the clutch is unsuccessful, pairs will lay one more clutch. For up to 3 months after the young learn to fly, the parents will feed the young. After this, they will drive their children out of their territory. Adults are very territorial, and if an intruder comes in, a game of chicken ensues. Watch one of these competitions here.

Young white bellied sea eagles start breeding at the age of six, and some can live for up to 30 years!

Don’t forget to scroll down and comment your guess about what the next animal is!

800px-Yellow-lobster

Sources:

Photo credits:

  • White-breasted sea eagle – Magnus Manske
  • White-breasted sea eagle range map – Scops
  • Mystery animal – Stevenj

One Response

  1. Charis Dwire
    Charis Dwire at |

    I’m guessing it’s a lobster, but I have no idea what kind.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: