Little Eagle (Hieraaetus morphnoides)

Little Eagle

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Hieraaetus morphnoides | [authority] Gould, 1841 | [UK] Little Eagle | [FR] Aigle nain | [DE] Kaninchenadler | [ES] Aguililla Australiana | [NL] Australische Dwergarend


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Hieraaetus morphnoides AU Australia


Members of the genus Hieraaetus are small to medium-sized eagles, with long and pointed wings; a longish tail, and feathered legs. They are very active eagles, not given to eating carrion, and found usually in lightly forested country. The genus is difficult to separate from Aquila, Spizastur and Spizaetus. Some species have at one time or another been placed in more than one genus, and some references combine Hieraaetus with Aquila. The main species are: Hieraaetus fasciatus of southern Eurasia, the Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus of Eurasia, Hieraaetus morphnoides of Australia and the New Guinea race – Hieraaetus morphnoides weiskei, the smallest of all the booted eagles; Hieraaetus dubius of Africa and Hieraaetus kienerii of India.

Physical charateristics

The Little Eagle is a medium-sized bird of prey that occurs in two colour forms: either pale brown with an obscure underwing pattern, or dark brown on the upperparts and pale underneath, with a rusty head and a distinctive underwing patter of rufous leading edge, pale ?M? marking and black-barred wingtips. Both forms have a black-streaked head with a slight crest, a pale shoulder band on the upperwings, a rather short and square-tipped barred tail, and feathered legs.

wingspan min.: 110 cm wingspan max.: 136 cm
size min.: 45 cm size max.: 55 cm
incubation min.: 36 days incubation max.: 41 days
fledging min.: 54 days fledging max.: 66 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 3  


Australasia : Australia


A solitary species occurring in most wooded habitats except for dense forest and is most common in woodland in rough hilly country and of river gums in inland areas. It spends much of its time soaring over forest or forest edge at great heights, or perched in a living or dead tree. Capable of very swift diving flight. Common, but inconspicous.


In Australia, the laying season varies with latitude, being later in the north, occurring in the dry season from March to September, and shorter in the center and south, usually from August to October (rarely May to December). This species is a solitary nester, building a platform nest of sticks lined with green leaves and located 5-45 m high in the fork of a living tree. Occasionally, the nest of another species is used, and both parents participate in nest-building. Clutch size is usually 2 eggs (sometimes 1 or 3). The female performs most of the incubation and brooding duties. The incubation period is 36-41 days, and the nestling period is 54-66 days. The period of dependence after fledging lasts about two months.

Feeding habits

Feeds on mammals, birds, reptiles (mostly lizards), insects, and rarely fish (pirated from the Whistling Kite). It prefers young rabbits in the south, primarily birds in the north, and lizards in the arid zones. This species also occasionally feeds on road kills and other carrion. It forages by quartering and soaring, low gliding flights, or still-hunts from a perch. It rarely takes prey in flight, but usually glides or stoops to the ground to capture food.

Video Little Eagle


copyright: Josep del Hoyo


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Little Eagle status Least Concern


Irruptive or local migrant. Juveniles may disperse widely (up to 3,000 km) after achieving independence.

Distribution map

Little Eagle distribution range map

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *