Lesser Fish Eagle (Icthyophaga humilis)

Lesser Fish Eagle

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Icthyophaga humilis | [authority] Mller and Schlegel, 1841 | [UK] Lesser Fish Eagle | [FR] Petrel de Hall | [DE] Braunschwanz- Seeadler | [ES] Pigarguillo minor | [NL] Kleine Rivierarend


Monotypic species


Members of the genus Ichthyophaga are small to medium-sized eagles with broad, blunt wings and coarse, unfeathered legs. Like the genus Haliaeetus, to which it is related, the lower surface of the roes are covered in spicules to aid gripping slippery fish. The talons are long, slender, acute and strongly curvers, also to aid catching fish. It is resident in freshwater areas around India and to the Philippines, and consists of two distinct species. The two groups are geographically separated, the northern fish-eagles and sea-eagles of Haliaeetuand the tropical fish/sea-eagles of Ichthyophaga. The corret spelling might be Icthyophaga or Ichthyophaga, there is dispute.

Physical charateristics

The head is grey, the chest brown and the wings are a deep brown. The belly and thighs are white and the tail is dark. In the field, the primary distinguishing feature to tell it apart from the Grey-headed Fish-Eagle is to observe the area where the white parts of the bird end. In the Lesser Fish-Eagle, the white area ends abruptly at the beginning of the tail. In the Grey-headed Fish-Eagle, it extends all the way to the tip of the tail where it terminates in a thick, dark band.

Listen to the sound of Lesser Fish Eagle

[audio:http://www.planetofbirds.com/MASTER/ACCIPITRIFORMES/Accipitridae/sounds/Lesser Fish Eagle.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 120 cm wingspan max.: 123 cm
size min.: 51 cm size max.: 64 cm
incubation min.: 0 days incubation max.: 0 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 0 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 3  


Oriental Region : widespread. Ichthyophaga humilis occurs in India (restricted to Himalayan foothills and north-east, with an additional small population in Karnataka state in the south; declining in range and population), Bangladesh, Nepal (rare and local in lowlands), Bhutan (very rare at lower altitudes), China (rare visitor to Hainan), Myanmar (widespread, scarce to locally fairly common), Thailand (rare in west and south), Cambodia (recently recorded – status unclear), Laos (small numbers persist in several catchments, although fragmentation of populations and their small size renders them vulnerable to local extinction), Vietnam (rare to locally fairly common in west Tonkin and south Annam), Peninsular Malaysia (previously common; now scarce to locally fairly common but declining) and east Malaysia, Brunei (scarce), Indonesia (uncommon in Sumatra and Borneo; locally common in south-east Sulawesi, uncommon to rare elsewhere, and in the Sula islands and Buru).


It frequents large forested rivers and wetlands in the lowlands and foothills up to 2,400 m, but usually below 1,000 m.


Hardly any data, clutch size is 2-3 eggs which are laid in a large stcik nest in a tall tree. Nests are indifferently built along waterbodies usually a river.

Feeding habits

The Lesser Fish-Eagle feeds primarily and almost solely on fish. It hunts by perch-sallying to the warter surface. Sometimes it will snatch fish in flight. Maintains several favorite perches and spends much time moving about them.

Video Lesser Fish Eagle


copyright: John Gregory


This species depends on forest-fringed waterbodies with good stocks of fish. It is thought to be undergoing a moderate population reduction owing to forest degradation, over-fishing and perhaps especially, pollution. It is consequently classified as Near Threatened
Loss of forest habitat along rivers, siltation, over-fishing and increasing human disturbance of waterways are causing widespread declines. It is also declining in Uttar Pradesh, India, partly because of pesticide use and this is presumably relevant throughout much of its range
Lesser Fish Eagle status Near Threatened



Distribution map

Lesser Fish Eagle distribution range map

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