Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga)

Greater Spotted Eagle

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Aquila clanga | [authority] Pallas, 1811 | [UK] Greater Spotted Eagle | [FR] Aigle criard | [DE] Schelladler | [ES] Aguila Moteada | [NL] Bastaardarend


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Aquila clanga EU nw, c, e


Members of the genus Aquila have long, broad wings and a medium tail. There are currently fourteen species of large predominantly dark-coloured eagles in the genus Aquila. This genus has a worldwide distribution.

Physical charateristics

Medium-sized, dark eagle. Adult dark brown with slightly paler flight feathers. Underwing-coverts generally darker than flight feathers. Bands of white spots across upperwing of juveniles. In gliding flight, often depresses “hands”. Similar spp. Lesser Spotted Eagle A. pomarina is slightly smaller, narrower winged and less stocky. Plumage generally paler and most show contrast between paler underwing and upperwing-coverts and darker flight feathers. Confusion is also possible with adult Steppe Eagle A. nipalenis, Tawny Eagle A. rapax and Imperial Eagle A. heliaca. Voice Barking kyak during breeding.

Listen to the sound of Greater Spotted Eagle

[audio: Spotted Eagle.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 153 cm wingspan max.: 177 cm
size min.: 59 cm size max.: 69 cm
incubation min.: 42 days incubation max.: 44 days
fledging min.: 60 days fledging max.: 44 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 3  


Eurasia : nw, Central, East


Compared with the similar Lesser Spotted Eagle and other large raptors, the species is very poorly known. During the breeding season it is an essentially dispersed species nesting at very low densities. At this time the species needs large wet forests bordering humid meadows, bogs, marshes and other wetlands. It mainly breeds in deciduous lowland forests, but sometimes in mountain forests, up to 1000 m above sea-level.

During migration and wintering a variety of habitats is used – open landscapes, shrubland, and wetlands – but very little is known about habitat requirements and ecology during this period, which extends over half of the year. There may be regular concentrations of birds in certain wintering areas.


The Greater Spotted Eagle builds a large nest of sticks on trees below the canopy, mostly in deciduous forest and only rarely in coniferous forest.
The clutch most often consists of two, often of only one, and very rarely of 3 eggs. Breeding success is around 0.6-0,7 young per breeding attempt. Breeding probably starts with the laying of the first egg and takes about six weeks. After hatching chicks stay in the nest for circa 63-67 days. There is a high level of unsuccessful pairs. As with the Lesser Spotted Eagle the species’ breeding is characterised by Cainism, whereby the older chick kills its sibling within the first weeks after hatching.

Adult plumage is acquired after several (probably 4) years. Greater Spotted Eagles build their own nest, but often use nests of other large birds (e.g. Black Stork, Common Buzzard, Lesser Spotted Eagle).

Feeding habits

Very variable, depending on availability of prey species. Mainly small mammals, birds, amphibians, lizards, snakes, small fish, carrion and sometimes insects. Diet generally similar to that of the Lesser Spotted Eagle, but often more and larger birds taken.

Video Greater Spotted Eagle


copyright: Josep del Hoyo


This species has a small population which appears to be declining owing to extensive habitat loss and persistent persecution. It is therefore listed as Vulnerable.
This globally threatened eagle inhabits humid forests and swamp forests from Central Europe to China. It hunts in the swamps and wet meadows and along the adjacent rivers. Its winter quarters are mainly in south-western Asia, from Turkey to Arabia and India, and in north-eastern Africa. Since the beginning of this century it undergoes a constant decline and contraction of its breeding area. Its total European population is estimated at 875 breeding pairs, 800 of which inhabit Russia (EBCC Atlas of European Breeding Birds). The Greater Spotted Eagle is distributed from eastern Poland and the Kaliningrad area to the Pacific Ocean, in south-east Siberia and Manchuria. In Europe it occurs as a breeding species in Belarus, Finland (?), Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania (?), the Russian Federation and Ukraine.
Greater Spotted Eagle status Vulnerable


The Greater Spotted Eagle is a migratory bird, wintering in southern Europe, southern Asia, the Middle East and Africa as far south as Uganda and Kenya (exceptionally Zambia). There is very little published information about its migration. The species leaves breeding grounds mid-Sept to mid-Oct. In Slovakia and Hungary, adults often seem to remain at or near breeding areas.

Distribution map

Greater Spotted Eagle distribution range map


Title On the Biology of the Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga Pallas 1811).
Author(s): Graszynski, K., B. Komischke & B.-U. Meyburg 2002
Abstract: A study of Greater Spotted Eagles (GSE)(Aquila cla..[more]..
Source: Raptors in the New Millennium. Eilat: Intern. Birding & Research Center.

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Title The greater spotted eagle (Aquila clanga): previous, current status and hybridisation in Lithuania
Author(s): Rimgaudas Treinys
Abstract: The Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga) is a glo..[more]..
Source: Acta Zoologica Lituanica, 2005, Volumen 15, Numerus 1

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Title Migrations of an adult Spotted Eagle tracked by satellite
Author(s): Bernd-U.Meyburg, Xavier Eichaker, Christiane
Meyburg and Patrick Paillat
Abstract: On 24th October 1993, we caught an adult Spotted E..[more]..
Source: onbekend boek

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Title Aquila Clanga in Asia
Author(s): Edited by NJ Collar, AV Andreev, S Chan, MJ Crosby, S Subramanya and JA Tobias
Abstract: There is anecdotal evidence that this species’s sm..[more]..
Source: Threatened Birds of Asia

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Title Genetic differentiation and hybridization between Greater and Lesser Spotted Eagles (Accipitriformes: Aquila clanga, A. pomarina)
Author(s): Helbig, A.J., Seibold, I., Kocum, A., Liebers, D., Irwin, J., Bergmanis, U., Meyburg, B.-U., Scheller, W., Stubbe, M. & S. Bensch (2005)
Abstract: Greater and lesser spotted eagles (Aquila clanga, ..[more]..
Source: J. Ornithol. 226-234

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