Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis)

Steppe Eagle

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Aquila nipalensis | [authority] Hodgson, 1833 | [UK] Steppe Eagle | [FR] Aigle des steppes | [DE] Steppenadler | [ES] Aguila Esteparia | [NL] Aziatische Arend


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Aquila nipalensis EU c


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

Size and form close to Imperial Eagle but bill smaller, while shape of extended wing differs in shorter inner primaries and hence more bulging secondaries. Plumage basically dark brown, somewhat paler below especially on throat; flight and tail feathers normally grey and barred overall unlike Imperial Eagle. Lacks pale nape, but often pale patch on back and on bases of primaries. Yellow gape extends backwards to point below all of eye. Juvenile noticeably paler than adult, with upper wing and tail base patterns recalling Imperial Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle and Spotted Eagle but distinguished from all by striking whitish band on largest under wing-coverts (prominent until 2nd or 3rd year).
Although powerful, shares flight attitudes and action, often somewhat ragged look, and piratical behaviour with Tawny Eagle. Separation from Imperial Eagle incompletely studied but tail pattern may also be helpful, apparently always evenly barred in Steppe Eagle but with broad black terminal band at least on adult Imperial Eagle.

Listen to the sound of Steppe Eagle

[audio: Eagle.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 180 cm wingspan max.: 230 cm
size min.: 67 cm size max.: 86 cm
incubation min.: 42 days incubation max.: 47 days
fledging min.: 55 days fledging max.: 47 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 2  


Eurasia : Central


Steppe and semi-desert. Race nipalensis breeds in mountainous areas, orientalis breeds in lowlands and low hills.


In Russia, eggs laid April-July, mainly late April-May, timing dependent on prey species populations. Timing of arrival in spring and start of breeding highly dependent on availability of chief prey species.
On ground, on slight rise like sand-dune, etc., on old haystack, low bush, or ruin; increasingly on cliffs, trees, or electricity poles because of persecution. Nest: large platform of branches, twigs, and bones lined with grass, hair, dung, and pellets, 70-130 cm in diameter.
1-3 eggs, incubation 45 days, Chicks have white down after hatching, later greyish white.

Feeding habits

Mainly small to medium-sized rodents, on breeding grounds almost exclusively susliks, and hatching coincides with emergence of their young; in addition hares, reptiles, birds, and young saiga antelopes, also scavenging on dead adults, afterbirths, etc. On migration and in winter quarters commonly gathers in large numbers (particularly immatures) in arable fields to take disturbed vertebrates and large insects, or at other concentrations of prey species, such as termites and queleas, carrion, or refuse, and will gather at carrion on breeding grounds. Frequently forages by walking on ground but also hunts from perch or by soaring, and pirates food from other birds, especially raptors, though to a lesser extent than Tawny Eagle.

Video Steppe Eagle


copyright: youtube


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.
The Steppe Eagle breeds from Romania east through the south Russian and Central Asian steppes to Mongolia. The European and Central Asian birds winter in Africa, and the eastern birds in India. It lays 1-3 eggs in a stick nest in a tree.
Steppe Eagle status Least Concern


Race orientalis completely migratory, leaving breeding areas in late August and Septebmber; avoiding crossing sea, with large concentrations observed in bottleneck areas, e.g. Israel and Suez. Winters in Middle East, Arabian Peninsula, East & South Africa. Race nipalensis less migratory, wintering mostly in South Asia.

Distribution map

Steppe Eagle distribution range map

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