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White-tailed Sea-eagle

Haliaeetus vocifer

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66 - 94cm

1.8 - 2.5m

3.1 - 6.9kg

15 - 20 yrs

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The white-tailed sea-eagle is a member of the raptor family Accipitridae, which includes all known eagle species. It is sometimes known simply as the white-tailed eagle, Eurasian sea eagle or grey sea eagle. Its Anglo-Saxon name, erne (meaning “soarer”), also sees some local usage. It is often considered the fourth largest eagle, which becomes more apparent when ranked by weight.

Least Concern

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LC

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Overall, their colouration is a muted grey-brown over most of the body; the palest areas are the head, neck and upper breast, which can appear cream to almost pure white. These areas become paler with age, including its namesake white tail, which only fully emerges at 6-8 years old. The bill, cere and feet are all yellow.

What Does it Look Like?

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What Does it Sound Like?

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They are known to be vocal during breeding season, where pairs will often perform a duet. The call of the male is a “krick-krick-krick” with the female’s being a deeper “krau-krau-krau”, which vary in both tempo and pitch. They have perched calls that are delivered with the head thrown back, altering the sound. The alarm call is a burst of three short “klee” sounds.

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Perhaps fittingly, it is depicted on many countries’ coat of arms grasping its primary catch – fish. Whilst it has been known to prey on over 70 distinct species, it seems to have a preference for pike, which are easy to spot in shallow water thanks to their speckled flanks. That said, waterfowl such as mallard ducks are also a key target.

What Does it Eat?

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Where Does it Nest?

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They build a giant stick nest atop a forked tree, which is then lined with moss, seaweed or – increasingly – sheep’s wool. Generally, 2 eggs are laid which the female will incubate for up to 6 weeks. The chicks are born with a creamy down and grow in their feathers after 30 days. Like other raptors, it is likely that only the strongest chick will be raised.

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They are found broadly across Eurasia, from Greenland in the west through to the Japanese island of Hokkaido in the east, although populations are pocketed; they are said to be more numerous around the White Sea in northern Russia. They prefer lowland areas by lakes, river systems or marshes, seeking shelter in wooded areas or coastal cliffs.

Where Does it Live?

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What is its Status?

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Many countries had considered them locally extinct as a result of persecution; the UK population was wiped out at the turn of the 20th century after a bounty was placed on their destruction to protect farmers and fishermen. Youngsters from Norway have been utilised in reintroduction programmes such as in Scotland, Ireland, and the Isle of Wight.

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