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Animal Detail ViewՄանրամասն` նրանց մասին

27.02.2012

Lesser Spotted Eagle (Aquila pomarina)


Scientific classification:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Falconiformes
Family: Accipitridae
Genus: Aquila
Species: Aquila pomarina

Range

Lesser spotted eagles are common during summer across the Western Palearctic regions. In the north of this area the border of their geographic range goes through North-east Germany, in the east the species can be traced up to Western Russia. Southwards the Lesser spotted eagle is found in Slovenia, Croatia, Greece, Eastern Turkey and North Iran. In late summer (normally in September), the Lesser spotted eagle start its migration to the winter grounds in Southern Africa.

Description

In comparison to Steppe eagle and the Greater spotted eagle Lesser spotted eagles are small, but generally they belong to the medium-sized birds with a body length of 54 to 65 cm. Unusual to its relative large size the Lesser spotted eagle weighs merely 1.2 to 2.2 kg, with a common of 1.6 kg. Instead of having brown eyes like congeneric eagles this species stands out with its yellow eyes which are in particular visible when the bird reaches adulthood. Its body appears in a dark shade of brown whereas the head and wings are a shaded lighter. Significant for the Lesser spotted eagle is the small head and beak abnormal for eagles. Characteristic for the genus Aquila, the lesser spotted eagle has a white V mark on its rump. The different shape of the wings accounts for the impression that the tail of the Lesser spotted eagle is longer than the tail of other related species. But this is only due to proportions. Different from the Greater spotted eagle with its broader wingspan the lesser spotted eagle has a narrower wingspan but nearly the same length of tail.

Lifespan

The maximum lifespan of a lesser spotted eagle is around 20 to 25 years. Deliberate poisoning, hunting, and habitat destruction belong to the threats posed to this species. Normally the average annual mortality amounts 35% for juveniles, 20% for immature birds and 5% for the Lesser spotted eagle adults. Consequently the average lifespan typically ranges from 8 to 10 years.

Behavior

The Lesser spotted eagle belongs to the arboreal birds, which live in trees. They are diurnal which means they hunt and fly during the day and return to their nesting site on a tree at night fall. During the period of breeding these eagles appear mostly in breeding pairs consisting of a single male and a single female. As migratory birds, they fly to their breeding grounds before the breeding season starts and migrate to Africa in late summer to escape from the cold winter. The territory plays an important role for the Lesser spotted eagles. If other birds emerge too close to their nests it will end in a fight. While defending its breeding place the male typically only displays its territorial behavior towards other males. Females are less aggressive then males and during the breeding season they occasionally visit the nests of other females. A reason for this behavior is up to now not known.

Diet

The Lesser spotted eagle appears normally alone or in pairs, hunting is conducted by intraspecific groups. These carnivorous birds of prey feed on small mammals, small birds, amphibians and occasionally insects. It is well established that this eagle species eat voles but unfortunately a recent experimental study on pesticide effects proved that Lesser spotted eagle which hunted pesticide- infected voles died. The staple diet in the winter time which is spent in Southern Africa is basing on termites. Untypically for birds of prey the Lesser spotted eagle also hunts by perching on low tree branches or by walking around the forest ground. They fly long distances to stop at many places for water or hunting.

Reproduction

Once per year the Lesser spotted eagles breed. Before breeding they prepare their platform nest, which is normally placed on a high tree. After the nest is built, the egg laying starts in late April or early May and the males have the responsibility for defending the immediate vicinity of the nest. In the second half of April to May the female lays the eggs and incubates them in a period that ranges from 36 to 41 days. Usually Lesser spotted eagles have two-egg clutches. Between the laying of the two eggs there is a time span of one or several days. The nestlings hedge according to the chronological order of egg laying. Usually the older nestling either kills its nestmate or prevents it from getting food and in addition the female in most cases only feeds the older one. This behavior is called Cainism and is typical for Lesser spotted eagles. The fledging period lasts up to eight weeks and during this time span the parents constantly care for the little fledgling. The starting point of an independent life is not known. Juvenile Lesser spotted eagles are not able to reproduce before the age of three or four years.

Conservation Status

The Lesser spotted eagle is not susceptible to threats, according to the Red List, the range that the species occupies is large. The conservation status is distinguished to be of least concern. Investigation basing on satellite radio tracking nevertheless imparts information about the reduction of the Lesser spotted eagle population though in a relatively slow way. Mainly responsible for the population decline in some areas of the distribution range is the loss of breeding habitats (for example in Germany) as well as hunting and poisoning during the migration.

Short Facts

  • The lesser spotted eagle has yellow eyes as a distinctive feature from congeneric species.
  • Though Lesser spotted eagles display a very strong territorial instinct the female eagles visit the nests of other females during the breeding season for unknown reasons.
  • Though the Lesser spotted eagle normally produces a two-egg clutch only one nestling survives as a result of Cainism.
  • Lesser spotted eagles can hunt by walking around the forest.


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