White-bellied Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster)

White-bellied Sea Eagle

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Haliaeetus leucogaster | [authority] Gmelin, 1788 | [UK] White-bellied Sea Eagle | [FR] Pygargue blagre | [DE] Weissbauch-Seeadler | [ES] Pigargo Oriental | [NL] Witbuikzeearend


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Haliaeetus leucogaster OR, AU India to Tasmania


Members of the genus Haliaeetus are large to very large eagles, with long, broad wings and medium to short rounded or wedge-shaped tails. The bill is large, strong and compressed. The legs are short and the toes and talons powerfully developed

Physical charateristics

The White-bellied Sea-Eagle is a mainly a white and black (dark grey) bird. White on the head and underneath (belly) and the leading front of the wings and black (dark grey) on their back and the back half of the wings. The tail is wedge shaped, mainly dark grey with a whitish tip Females are slightly larger than males. Their hooked bill is dark and their legs are a creamy colour with long black talons which with tiny spikes in the soles of their feet they use in grasping slippery fish. etc Their voice has been described as “loud deep goose-like honking”
Juveniles (young sea eagles) are a speckled brown

Listen to the sound of White-bellied Sea Eagle

[audio:http://www.planetofbirds.com/MASTER/ACCIPITRIFORMES/Accipitridae/sounds/White-bellied Sea Eagle.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 180 cm wingspan max.: 220 cm
size min.: 75 cm size max.: 85 cm
incubation min.: 40 days incubation max.: 45 days
fledging min.: 65 days fledging max.: 70 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 3  


Oriental Region, Australasia : India to Tasmania. The coasts of India and Sri Lanka east to South China, and south to Australia and Tasmania, the New Guinea and Bismarck archipelagos.


This bird is most frequently seen by the sea coasts of the South Asian continent and the islands, and the coast of Australia, but it is also to be found up the major waterways for some distance. It goes further up such waterways and rivers in open country than in forested areas; in Borneo not more than 15 km.


It builds its nest on a high tree or sometimes on a rock. It is a large structure, that both help to build and into which two, or occasionally three eggs are laid. Incubation is carried out mainly by the female, with occasional relief by the male for around 50 days. The young are tended by the female for 65-70 days until fledging takes place, and it is not unusual for two young to be successfully reared. Independence comes about 6 months later.

Feeding habits

The White-bellied Sea Eagle is an opportunistic carnivore and consumes a wide variety of animal prey, including carrion. It often catches a fish by flying low over the water and grasping it in its talons. It prepares for the strike by holding its feet far forward (almost under its chin) and then strikes backwards while simultaneously beating its wings to lift upwards. Generally only one foot is used to seize prey. The White-bellied Sea Eagle may also dive at a 45 degree angle from its perch and briefly submerge to catch fish near the water surface. While hunting over water on sunny days, it often flies directly into the sun or at right angles to it, seemingly to avoid casting shadows over the water and hence alerting potential prey. About to seize waterborne preyThe White-bellied Sea Eagle hunts mainly aquatic animals, such as fish, turtles and sea snakes, but it takes birds, such as Little Penguins, Eurasian Coots and shearwaters, and mammals as well.[In the Bismarck Archipelago it has been reported feeding on two possum species, the Northern Common Cuscus and Common Spotted Cuscus. It is a skilled hunter, and will attack prey up to the size of a swan. They also feed on carrion such as dead sheep, birds and fish found along the waterline, as well as raiding fishing nets and following cane harvesters. They harass smaller raptors such as Swamp Harriers, Whistling Kites, Brahminy Kites and Ospreys, forcing them to drop any food that they are carrying.[12][36] Other birds victimised include Silver and Pacific Gulls, cormorants and Australasian Gannets. There is one record of a White-bellied Sea Eagle seizing a gannet when unsuccessful in obtaining its prey. They may even steal food from their own species, including their mates. The White-bellied Sea Eagle attacks these birds by striking them with outstretched talons from above or by flying upside down underneath the smaller predator and snatching the prey, all the while screeching shrilly. Southern Fur Seals have also been targeted for their fish. White-bellied Sea Eagles feed alone, in pairs, or in family groups. A pair may cooperate to hunt. Prey can be eaten while the bird is flying or when it lands on a raised platform such as its nest. The White-bellied Sea Eagle skins the victim as it eats it. It is exceptionally efficient at digesting its food, and disgorges only tiny pellets of fragmented bone, fur and feathers.

Video White-bellied Sea 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 small, 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.
White-bellied Sea Eagle status Least Concern


Sedentary, with the young dispersing after the breeding season.

Distribution map

White-bellied Sea Eagle distribution range map

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