Booted Eagle

Hieraaetus pennatus

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.

Other names:

Booted Hawk Eagle

Booted Eagle

Length:

40cm

Wingspan:

110cm to 132cm

Weight:

510g to 1.025kg

What does a Booted Eagle look like?

The booted eagle is a polymorphic medium build bird of prey similar in size to a common buzzard. The two colour morphs are distinct and mainly confined to the bird’s underparts with the pale form being the most common. The upper parts of both forms including the upper wing and tail are similar with dark grey flight feathers (primaries and secondaries) and lighter brownish coverts fading to a paler almost white at the tips, forming a diagonal pale band. The rump has a white crescent and there are two distinct bright white spots on the shoulders immediately next to the neck. Upper tail coverts are also a pale brown and the trailing edges of both the wings and the tail are almost white and appear as translucent, which is particularly obvious in flight. The pale morph has white underparts and underwing coverts with white feathered legs and a grey brown head. Underwing flight feathers are a dark grey and brown and the wing tips are distinctively well fingered. The fan shaped under tail feathers and coverts are white. The dark form bird is a dull brown overall across the underparts with a pale patch running from the base of the fingered wingtips to the edge of the primaries where they meet the secondary flight feathers. Under tail feathers and coverts are similarly pale. The feet of both forms are yellow as is the cere with the rest of the hooked bill being dark grey to black. Eyes vary in colour from a yellowy brown to a reddish brown and juvenile birds are similar to the adults and are also polymorphic.

Booted Eagle

Booted Eagle

What does a Booted Eagle sound like?

A repeated and loud medium pitched ‘kli – kli – kli’ is often used in display although the booted eagle is more commonly a silent predator.

Booted Eagle call

Joost van Bruggen, XC430828. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/430828.

Booted Eagle

Booted Eagle in flight

What does a Booted Eagle eat?

Whilst larger insects such as locusts form part of the diet, more commonly a variety of birds, reptiles and mammals are selected even up to the size of rabbits. Prey is frequently located whilst the eagle is perched nearby and can be caught from a fast almost vertical swoop from above.

Booted Eagle

Booted Eagle with prey

Distribution

The booted eagle breeds in southern Europe, particularly along the Mediterranean coastline including Gibraltar and the Balearic Islands. Then eastwards through Greece and Israel into the Caucuses, Iran and the Middle East and across to the Himalayas. South of the Mediterranean they also breed in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and down into South Africa. During the winter months the majority of the species breeding within Europe migrate into sub-Saharan Africa, southern Asia and the Indian sub-continent.

Booted Eagle

Booted Eagle from behind

Signs and Spotting tips

The adult female can be up to twice the size of the male and is thus easy to spot if seen as a pair together. Booted eagles settle in a variety of habitats including open woodlands, semi desert and deserts, mountain areas, open scrubland and grass plains. Rarely seen in areas with other birds of prey and usually solitary or with a mate. They often perch in the tops of dead trees close to their nest whilst scanning the nearby ground for prey. In flight, from above or head on, both morphs can be identified by the distinctive bright white spots on top of the wing at the shoulder.

Booted Eagle

Booted Eagle

Breeding

Nests are usually built of large twigs and sticks lined with leaves and located in trees or occasionally on cliff ledges, although old nests from other species may also be utilised. One clutch averaging two white, green tinted, eggs is laid annually between March to May, dependent upon location and incubated mainly by the female for between thirty six to thirty eight days. Fledging normally occurs approximately fifty four days after hatching and the young may stay with the parents for a further five to seven weeks.

Booted Eagle

Booted Eagle nest with eggs

Booted Eagle

A pair of Booted Eagles

How long do Booted Eagles live for?

The expected lifespan of a booted eagle is up to fifteen years in the wild although there have been examples of ringed birds exceeding twenty years of age.

Similar birds to a Booted Eagle

Other birds in the Kites, hawks and eagles family