White-bellied Sea-Eagle birdsaspoetry.com/Flickr

White-bellied Sea-Eagle

Haliaeetus leucogaster

Did You Know?

  • They pair up for life and are territorial
  • Can be seen harassing smaller birds forcing them to drop their food so they can steal it
  • Sea eagles are the second largest bird of prey in Australia after the wedge-tailed eagle
  • They can also be found in China, India, South-east Asia, Indonesia and New Guinea
FactBox Image

A large bird of prey with a dark grey back and a white head, white chest and white belly. Their legs are also white and have long black talons. They have dark eyes and a light-coloured, hooked beak. When viewed in flight, the undersides of the wings are a distinctive half white and half grey-brown.

First-year juveniles have a buffish and ‘spiky’ head, contrasting with patchy cream and dark brown body and wings; underwing pattern also patchy, but note half-moon at base of tail feathers. Older juveniles have a pale buff-grey tail.

Their nests are massive, made of sticks and branches, usually found in a tall living tree near water or on a remote coastal cliff (on ground if on an island).

Distinctive feature

A wedge-shaped tail, distinctive when seen in flight.

Size

76 cm male, 84 cm female; with a wingspan of 1.8 - 2 m

Behaviour

Diet

Feeds mainly off marine animals, such as fish, turtles and sea snakes, but it also takes other birds and mammals.

Flight

Hovers low over prey, or makes a sloping power-dive from height or high perch to seize fish from surface; seldon enters water.

Breeding

Breeds May to August. The female carries out most of the incubation, however the male occasionally performs this duty.

Species: WhatToObserve Image

What to Observe

  • Courting/Mating

  • Resting

  • Feeding

  • Presence of nest

  • Presence of young

Climate Adaptations

White-bellied Sea-eagles are top predators in coastal areas and can often be seen hunting fish and small mammals along beaches, estuaries and sand dunes. Their presence may indicate a healthy coastal ecosystem with many food sources and foraging areas available.

Species: WhenAndWhere Image

When and Where

When To Look

Throughout the year. Usually breeds October to April.

Where To Look

  • Throughout Australia
  • Usually found along coast lines, but can also be found inland around lakes, rivers and dams
Species: WhatElse Image

What Else?

Similar Species

The Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) is smaller in size and has a fan-shaped tail rather than a wedge-shaped tail.

May be confused with a Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus notatus), but kites are much smaller at 36 cm and have light coloured eyes.