White-Tailed Eagle

White-Tailed Eagle

Scientific name: Haliaeetus albicilla

Did you know: The White-Tailed Eagle, often referred to as the ‘sea eagle’, was once extinct in the UK but has made a remarkable comeback thanks to conservation efforts.

What Do White-Tailed Eagles Look Like? (how to identify them)

White-Tailed Eagles, the UK’s largest birds of prey, are majestic creatures with a distinctive appearance. These birds boast broad wings with ‘fingered’ ends and a wedge-shaped tail. Adults are recognisable by their brown body plumage, pale head and neck, which may appear almost white in older birds, and their signature white tail feathers. 

Look for their yellow beaks and watch for their unique flight pattern, where their head protrudes, creating an imposing silhouette against the sky.

Differences Between Male And Female White-Tailed Eagles

Males and females can be tricky to distinguish, but generally, females are slightly larger. Both genders share similar plumage, but keen observers might note subtle differences in their size and wingspan, with females typically boasting a more robust frame.

What Do White-Tailed Eagles Eat?

Versatile in their diet, White-Tailed Eagles are opportunistic hunters and scavengers. Their primary diet consists of fish, but they also feed on various birds, rabbits, and hares. They have been known to pirate food from other birds and even otters. 

In winter, carrion becomes a crucial part of their diet. Watch for their impressive hunting technique: they fly low over water, hover momentarily, and then snatch fish from the surface with remarkable precision.

Where Do White-Tailed Eagles Live? (inc. migration info)

These eagles are most commonly found near large bodies of open water – both coastal and inland freshwater lakes, wetlands, and rivers. They prefer nesting in old-growth trees or sea cliffs. Interestingly, White-Tailed Eagles are known to migrate inconsistently, with younger birds being more prone to movement. 

The UK breeding population, which has seen a resurgence, largely remains in the region throughout the year, though some migration to coastal areas during winter can occur.

Bird Calls & Songs (the unique voices of White-Tailed Eagles)

White-Tailed Eagles are particularly vocal during the breeding season. Their calls can vary but are generally not as loud as one might expect for their size. The male’s call is often described as a ‘gri-gri-gri’ or ‘krick-krick-krick’, while the female’s is deeper, sounding like ‘gra-gra-gra-gra’ or ‘krau-krau-krau-krau’. 

They also engage in duets, particularly in the early spring, with an interesting mix of calls and responses.

Fun White-Tailed Eagle Facts (kid friendly)

  • White-Tailed Eagles can have a wingspan of up to 2.45 metres, making them one of the largest eagles.
  • They are also known as ‘sea eagles’ due to their preference for coastal habitats and diet rich in fish.
  • These eagles mate for life and often reuse the same nest for several years.
  • Young White-Tailed Eagles don’t get their white tail feathers until they are around five years old.
  • They have excellent vision and can spot a fish from several metres above the water.
  • In flight, they can reach speeds of up to 43 miles per hour.
  • White-Tailed Eagles can live up to 25 years in the wild.
  • They play an important role in their ecosystem by controlling fish and small mammal populations.

Facts About The White-Tailed Eagle

Diet: White-tailed eagles are versatile and opportunistic hunters and carrion feeders, sometimes pirating food from other birds and even otters. They eat largely fish, but also take various birds, rabbits and hares. Some pairs kill many fulmars, which are thought to be the source of DDT and PCBs (chemicals) recorded in eagle eggs. Carrion is an important part of their diet, especially during the winter months. Most lambs are taken as carrion. When fishing, they fly low over water, stop to hover for a moment and drop to snatch fish from the surface. During the breeding season while they are rearing young, they require 500-600g of food per day. This drops to 200-300g per day during the winter months when the birds are less active.
Bird Family: Kites, hawks and eagles
Length: 70-90cm
Wingspan: 200-240cm
Weight: 3.5-5kg (male); 4-7kg (female)
Scientific Name: Haliaeetus albicilla

The White-Tailed Eagle Can Be Seen In The UK During The Following Months

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

White-Tailed Eagle Images

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