Thursday, July 23, 2009

Short-toed Eagle

Adults are 63-68 cm long with an 185-195 cm wingspan and weigh 1.7-1.9 kg. They can be recognised in the field by their predominantly white underside, the upper parts being greyish brown. The chin, throat and upper breast are a pale, earthy brown. The tail has 3 or 4 bars. Additional indications are an owl-like rounded head, brightly yellow eyes and lightly barred under wing.

The Short-toed Eagle is an accomplished flyer and spends more time on the wing than do most members of its genus. It favours soaring over hill slopes and hilltops on updraughts, and it does much of its hunting from this position at heights of up to 500 meters. When quartering open country it frequently hovers like a Kestrel. When it soars it does so on flattish wings.

Its prey is mostly reptiles, mainly snakes, but also some lizards. Occasionally small mammals to the size of a rabbit; rarely birds and large insects.

This eagle is generally very silent. On occasions it emits a variety of musical whistling notes. When breeding it lays only one egg, but can live up to 17 years.

The Short-toed Eagle has suffered a steep decline in numbers and range in Europe and is now rare and still decreasing in several countries due to changes in agriculture and land-use. It needs protection. In the middle and far eastern part of its range this species is not yet threatened.