White-bellied Sea Eagle

White-bellied Sea Eagle   Haliaeetus leucogaster

Etymology :

  • Haliaeetus : Latin word hali– sea;  aetos eagle   { Sea eagle}
  • Leucogaster : Greek word Leuco – White ; Gaster – Belly, Stomach   { White- bellied}

 Vernacular Names : Hindi: Kohassa, Sampmar Samudri Garud, Sans: Sagar suparna, Guj: Dariai/Dariyayi garud, Mar: Sagaari garud, Ori: Samp mar, Ta: Kadal ali, Te: Ala gadda, Kan: Kankan, Sinh: Muhudu rajaliya, Nicobar: Muttayeya

Distribution in India: Coastal area and offshore islands in India.

Description: The males are 66–80 cm long. Females are slightly larger, at 80–90 cm. The wingspan ranges from 1.78 to 2.2 m. It has a white head, rump and underparts, and dark or slate-grey 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 a leaden blue-grey with a darker tip, and the irides are dark brown. The cere is also lead grey. The legs and feet are yellow or grey, with long black talons. Both the sexes are similar. There is no seasonal variation in plumage. A young white-bellied sea eagle in its first year is predominantly brown,with pale cream-streaked plumage on their head, neck, nape and rump areas.The plumage becomes more infiltrated with white until it acquires the complete adult plumage by the fourth or fifth year. The wings are modified when gliding so that they rise from the body at an angle, but are closer to horizontal further along the wingspan. In silhouette, the comparatively long neck, head and beak stick out from the front almost as far as the tail does behind. For active flight, the white-bellied sea eagle alternates strong deep wing-beats with short periods of gliding.

Habitat : It is found in inshore seas and islands, coasts, estuaries and terrestrial wetlands, ranging over nearby wooded and open habitats, including lowland monsoon rain forest; from sea level up to 1700 m.

Food Habits: It eats aquatic animals, such as fish, turtles and sea snakes, also eats birds, such as little penguins, Eurasian coots and shearwaters, and mammals. 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. It also harries aquatic birds to exhaustion, snatches fruit bats from tree roosts, and robs other predators including seabirds and raptors such as Osprey.

Breeding Habits: They breed in May–Sept in Australia, Oct–Mar in India, Dec–May in SE Asia and Philippines, and May–Nov in New Guinea. The pair-bond is life-long. The nest is platform of sticks, lined with leaves, grass and seaweed; placed on ground or cliff on offshore islands, above ground in tree including mangroves. The male being more active in nest building, it spends three to six weeks building or renovating the nest before laying eggs. They lay a clutch of 1–3 eggs. The incubation period is 35–42 days. The fledging period is 65–70 days. The young are semi-altricial, and covered in white down when they emerge from the egg. Initially, the male brings food and the female feeds the chicks, but both parents feed the chicks as they grow larger. The young remain with adults for another 3–6 months.