Mountain Hawk-Eagle (Nisaetus nipalensis)

Mountain Hawk-Eagle

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Nisaetus nipalensis | [authority] Hodgson, 1836 | [UK] Mountain Hawk-Eagle | [FR] Aigle montagnard | [DE] Bergadler | [ES] Aguila-azor Montanesa | [NL] Aziatische kuifarend


Monotypic species


Nisaetus is a genus of eagles found mainly in tropical Asia. They were earlier placed within the genus Spizaetus but molecular studies show that the Old World representatives were closer to the genus Ictinaetus than to the New World Spizaetus (in the stricter sense). They are slender bodied, medium sized hawk-eagles with rounded wings, long feathered legs, barred wings, crests and usually adapted to forest habitats

Physical charateristics

The Mountain Hawk-Eagle is a medium-large raptor at 67-86 cm in length and a wingspan of 130-165 cm. The typical adult has brown upperparts and pale underparts, with barring on the undersides of the flight feathers and tail. The breast and belly and underwing coverts are heavily streaked. The wings are broad with a curved trailing edge, and are held in a shallow V in flight. Sexes are similar, but young birds are often whiter-headed. Mountain Hawk-EagleThe Sri Lankan and south Indian subspecies (S. n. kelaarti) is smaller and has unstreaked buff underwing coverts. A 2008 study based on the geographic isolation and differences in call suggest that this be treated as a full species, Nisaetus kelaarti. The Japanese subspecies N. n. orientalis is larger, lighter, and has only a very small crest, which is large in the other two subspecies. N. kelaartiThe heavier underpart streaking and wing shape help to distinguish this species from the similar Crested Hawk-Eagle (Nisaetus cirrhatus).

Listen to the sound of Mountain Hawk-Eagle

[audio: Hawk-Eagle.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 130 cm wingspan max.: 165 cm
size min.: 67 cm size max.: 86 cm
incubation min.: 35 days incubation max.: 40 days
fledging min.: 40 days fledging max.: 50 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  


Oriental Region : Himalayas to Taiwan and Japan. The Mountain or Feather-toed Hawk-eagle is distributed in continental Asia south of the Himalayas, plus Sri Lanka, Hainan, Formosa and the main islands of Japan in continental Asia south of the Himalayas, plus Sri Lanka, Hainan, Formosa and the main islands of Japan.


The Mountain or Feather-toed Hawk-eagle can be found in coniferous or deciduous forests. Its preference seems to be for mountain forests – in some atras up to 3 km in altitude.


Display is frequent and noisy, consisting of much mutual soaring above the canopy, with vigorous undulating flights. The nest is built in a forest tree, usually deciduous but sometimes a conifer. The nest is a large structure built from material ranging from twigs to branches. It may reach 6 feet (2 metres) in diameter, and three to four feet (a bit over one metre) in depth. The cup will be lined with green leaves or sprigs of conifers. Building the nest is a joint enterprise – the male fetches the material, and the female performs the actual construction, although some role-sharing is quite common. The single egg is incubated entirely by the female, who is brought food by the male throughout the period. During this time the female will be very aggressive to any disturbance. She will remain in the nest with the young, not leaving until it has fledged. The family will remain together until the young eaglet is able to fly strongly and hunt successfully for itself, at which time it will be come a competitor in the parents’ range and will be encouraged to relocate. The breeding cycle (incubation and fledging) is estimated at about 80 days. Based on the the other species in the genus incubation is estimated at about 5 to 6 weeks. Fledging at 7 to 8 weeks.

Feeding habits

The mainstay of this birds’s diet is mammals up to the size of a hare, plus large game birds, and occasionally domestic fowl and lizards. All prey is taken on the ground.

Video Mountain Hawk-Eagle


copyright: Christian Boix Hinzen


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). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to 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.
Mountain Hawk-Eagle status Least Concern


Mainly sedentary; however, fairly common in lowlands of Thailand in winter, and a few individuals, possibly juveniles, have been recorded in Malay Peninsula and in lowlands of Japan. Erroneously recorded on spring passage at Beidaihe (Northeast China), probably due to confusion with Pernis ptilorhyncus. Many birds claimed to move South onto Gangetic Plain.

Distribution map

Mountain Hawk-Eagle distribution range map

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