62 - 81cm
1.7 - 2.2m
2 - 4.9kg
10 - 20 yrs
The steppe eagle is a bird of prey in the family Accipitridae. It was once considered the same species as the tawny eagle (Aquila rapax), but due to a number of subtle differences, enough evidence existed to support their split. One such difference is that the steppe eagle is migratory, unlike its counterpart. It is named after the steppes in which it inhabits.
Unlike the uncharacteristically small tawny eagle, the steppe eagle is much larger – often up to two times heavier by comparison. It is also much darker overall, with deep brown upperparts and darker flight feathers. It has a pale throat, which the tawny lacks. Another key difference is the width of its gape – the corners of the mouth extend further back.
What Does it Look Like?
What Does it Sound Like?
It’s primary call has been described as a barking shout, similar to that of a crow. It will also produce harsh croaks and grunts as an alarm call, or during courtship displays. However, like some other large birds of prey, it remains conspicuously silent for a vast majority of the time – a trait it also shares with the tawny eagle.
It primarily preys on small rodents, especially local species of ground squirrel – it has been known to wait at the entrance to their burrows, striking when they emerge. Other, less common targets include small birds and reptiles. It appears to be quite opportunistic and will attempt to steal prey from other birds, or feed on fresh carrion.
What Does it Eat?
Where Does it Nest?
Unlike the tawny eagle, the nest site is typically on the ground, although it may use a small tree instead. The nest takes the form of a platform built from sticks, which is then lined with nearby materials such as feathers or dung. 1 to 3 eggs are laid and incubated for about 6 weeks. When rearing their chicks, the availability of ground squirrels is crucial to success.
For a threatened species, it has an unusually broad range. It breeds from eastern Europe, through Turkey and parts of Russia into Kazakhstan, then into Mongolia and China. It migrates into the Middle East, Arabia and eastern Africa, as well as India and southeast Asia. It resides in steppes and semi-deserts, but can also be found in mountain regions.
Where Does it Live?
What is its Status?
It is thought most of the breeding population in eastern Europe may no longer exist due to the conversion of steppes into farmland. Experts also believe the Chernobyl nuclear disaster also greatly disturbed migration routes. Additionally, it also seems particularly susceptible to diclofenac (pesticide) poisoning and power-line electrocutions.
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