A member of the sub-family of booted eagles due to its feather covered legs and named after the famous Italian ornithologist Franco Andrea Bonelli, the species is considered endangered across Europe but secure elsewhere within its range.
The Bonelli’s eagle is a medium sized eagle with elongated legs, large yellow feet and strong black talons. Adult males are predominantly dark brown above with a white mantle patch below the nape stretching towards the upper back and a long narrow grey tail tipped with black. The head is dark brown with a brown and white streaked neck and white throat. Breast and underbody are white streaked with dark brown with a white undertail tipped dark and brown underwings. There is a very dark black band along the edge of the underwing median coverts and a pale, almost white hue, to the leading edge of the underwing from the bastard wing extending to the body. Eyes are yellow and the hooked bill is grey to dark grey with a yellow cere from the base of the upper mandible to the nostrils. The feathered legs are mainly brown on the outer half and white with minimum streaking on the inside. Adult females tend to be up to 10% larger than males with heavier streaking to the underparts and darker overall. Juveniles have dark upperparts and are a light brown or tawny shade below, extending to the underwing coverts. Full adult plumage is reached at approximately four years of age.
Bonelli’s Eagle perched
Although mainly silent birds, during the breeding season they will become more vocal with a series of barks or yelps similar to ‘eeyou – eeyou’. Their alarm call is a repetitive ‘ki – ki – ki’.
Bonelli’s Eagle call
Pere Josa Anguera, XC540072. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/540072.
Bonelli’s eagles survive on a diet of mainly medium sized birds similar to pigeons or partridges, occasionally caught in flight, or more usually mammals, including rabbits and squirrels. Sometimes hunting in pairs and following surprise ground attacks they have been known to take foxes.
A female Bonelli’s Eagle
Bonelli’s are generally non migratory, occupying their habitats year-round. Within Europe the greatest number are to be found in Spain including Mallorca, where the birds have been reintroduced. Breeding pairs are also to be found as far west as Portugal extending along the Mediterranean coast through southern France and the Balkans to Turkey. Whilst European numbers have been in decline for some time populations are strong in other parts of the range of the Bonelli’s eagle which extends through north west Africa, Senegal, Israel, Syria, the Arabian Peninsula, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the Indian sub-continent, Thailand through to Indonesia and on to southern China.
Bonelli’s Eagle in flight
Mainly frequenting sunny, often arid regions, sightings are more common in mountainous and rocky areas or along cliffs or river gorges where they can be viewed gliding or soaring on flattened wings generally low to the ground searching for prey. Bonelli’s eagles are extremely territorial and whilst they will occupy areas of arable land and limited vegetation, they are unlikely to be found in heavily forested or highly overgrown regions which would afford admirable cover for their prey. They are seldom seen in company with others of their own species apart from its mate or family members.
Bonelli’s Eagle flying
Dependant upon location, breeding takes place between February to April in Europe and around the Mediterranean, January in north Africa and December to April across the Indian sub- continent. Nests are usually constructed out of large sticks and sited in caves, on steep ledges or occasionally in trees. One brood of normally two pale cream or white eggs with pale brown spotting is laid and incubated, predominantly by the female, for up to forty one days in Europe and up to 45 on the Indian sub-continent. Fledging starts around fifty six days of age up to a maximum of seventy days.
A pair of Bonelli’s Eagles
Juvenile Bonelli’s Eagle
The life expectancy of a Bonelli’s eagle is generally regarded as being up to a maximum of fifteen years.
Family:Kites, hawks and eagles
55cm to 74cm
143cm to 180cm
2kg to 3kg
Closely associated with rivers and coastlines, the majestic Bald Eagle is America's national bird. A symbol of strength and power, and a sacred symbol for many Native American peoples, these eagles are one of the most recognizable birds on Earth.
The Crowned eagle or African crowned eagle is a powerful eagle from the family Accipitridae which includes both eagles and many other birds of prey. Dubbed the ‘most powerful eagle in Africa’, the Crowned eagle is a long-lengthed bird of prey with a large wingspan of around 1.8m. Occupying diverse habitats stretching much of Sub-Saharan Africa, the Crowned eagle is capable of catching prey some 4 to 6 times its weight.
One of the world’s largest and most powerful birds, the Harpy Eagle has a fearsome reputation. These impressive raptors prey on monkeys and other large prey by snatching them from the forest canopy with oversized feet and talons.
One of the world’s largest birds of prey, it is also known as Steller’s Fish Eagle, the White Shouldered Eagle and a Pacific Sea Eagle. The bird is monotypic meaning there are no subspecies.
A ‘scruffy’ bird of prey, with a diverse diet and able to thrive in a wide range of habitats, the whistling kite is native to Australia. It is also found on some of the nearby South Pacific islands and island groups, but does not occur outside of this particular region.
Europe’s smallest eagle, the booted eagle, otherwise known as the Booted Hawk Eagle, prefers the warmer climes of southern Europe and south central Asia and whilst not threatened globally, its population within Europe is showing signs of decline.
The White-tailed Eagle is the UK’s largest raptor and an iconic species making a triumphant return.
Woodlands across the UK are home to a stealthy hunter. The Sparrowhawk is a dashing bird of prey that leads a dangerous life.
Rough-legged hawks, known in the UK as rough-legged buzzards, are medium-sized birds of prey that breed in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of North America, Europe and Asia, before migrating south once they have raised their young.
Soaring gracefully above the UK countryside, the Red Kite is a bird of prey that has returned from the brink of extinction.
This long distance migrant is named after Colonel George Montagu (1753 – 1815), an Englishman who, upon retirement from the British army, became a renowned naturalist and author of an Alphabetical Synopsis of British Birds, published in 1802. There are 16 species of harrier today, all of which are recognised as elegant, soaring birds of prey of the genus Circus meaning circle.
Back from the brink of local extinction, the Marsh Harrier is a localised but increasingly common bird of prey in low-lying wetlands of the United Kingdom.
European Honey Buzzard
The European Honey-Buzzard, which is monotypic, is classified as a bird of prey and is one of six species of Honey-Buzzards from the family Accipitridae, which also includes Kites, Vultures, Harriers, Hawks and Eagles.
Slow but agile in flight, the Hen Harrier is a rare and beautiful ground-nesting raptor of moorlands and other open habitats.
The Northern Goshawk, more commonly known simply as the goshawk, is a large bird of prey, widespread throughout the northern hemisphere, with deciduous and coniferous forests their preferred habitat.
The Golden Eagle inspires awe everywhere it occurs. These majestic raptors soar above suitable habitats across the Northern Hemisphere.
Brighten up your inbox with our exclusive newsletter, enjoyed by thousands of people from around the world.