White-bellied Sea-Eagle Click to enlarge image
White-bellied Sea-Eagle Image: Geoff Whalan
creative commons

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    leucogaster
    Genus
    Haliaeetus
    Family
    Accipitridae
    Order
    Falconiformes
    Class
    Aves
  • Size Range
    75 cm to 85 cm

The White-bellied Sea-Eagle has a wingspan of 1.8m - 2m.

Identification

The White-bellied Sea-Eagle has white on the head, rump and underparts and dark grey on the back and wings. In flight the black flight feathers on the wings are easily seen when the bird is viewed from below. The large, hooked bill is grey with a darker tip, and the eye is dark brown. The legs and feet are cream-white, with long black talons (claws). The sexes are similar. As in other raptors (birds of prey), Males (2.5 kg - 3.7 kg) are slightly smaller than females (2.8 kg - 4.2 kg).The wingspan is about 1.8 m - 2 m. Young Sea-Eagles are brown as juveniles than slowly become to resemble adults in a patchwork manner, acquiring the complete adult plumage by their fourth year.

Habitat

White-bellied Sea-Eagles are normally seen perched high in a tree, or soaring over waterways and adjacent land. Birds form permanent pairs that inhabit territories throughout the year.

Distribution

White-bellied Sea-Eagles are a common sight in coastal and near coastal areas of Australia. In addition to Australia, the species is found in New Guinea, Indonesia, China, south-east Asia and India.



Feeding and diet

The White-bellied Sea-Eagle feeds mainly off aquatic animals, such as fish, turtles and sea snakes, but it takes birds and mammals as well. It is a skilled hunter, and will attack prey up to the size of a swan. Sea-Eagles also feed on carrion (dead prey) such as sheep and fish along the waterline. They harass smaller birds, forcing them to drop any food that they are carrying. Sea-Eagles feed alone, in pairs or in family groups.

Communication

Distinctive loud "goose-like" honking call, which is heard particularly during the breeding season.

Breeding behaviours

White-bellied Sea-Eagles build a large stick nest, which is used for many seasons in succession. The nest can be located in a tree up to 30m above the ground, but may also be placed on the ground or on rocks, where there are no suitable trees. At the start of the breeding season, the nest is lined with fresh green leaves and twigs. The female carries out most of the incubation of the white eggs, but the male performs this duty from time to time.

  • Breeding Season: May to October.