White-tailed Eagle



The White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) is a species of day-flying bird of prey. The white-tailed eaglehas a bodysize of up to 94 cm with a wingspan of 178 cm to 245 cm (Ferguson-Lees 2001 et. al, National Geographic 2002). The adult white-tailed eagle has a greyish mid-brown colour. It is uniform over most of the body and the wings. The upper wing coverts are typically paler. The head, neck and upper breast seems are a bit brighter in colour (Ferguson-Lees et al. 2001).

Habitat and Ecology

The White-tailed Eagle is found in wetland, woodland and forest and river and lake ecosystems. Generally, it occurs in lowland areas. During winter it prefers coastal areas or areas with water access (Helande & Stjernberg 2003; Olsen 2016; Ferguson-Lees et. al 2001). The diet is varied, opportunistic and seasonal. Prey specimens can often include fish, birds and, mostly in a secondary capacity, mammals (Love 1983; Ferguson-Lees et al. 2001). On which kind of species the bird prays depends on the regional and local habitat structures.

Population and Distribution

The White-tailed Eagle has a breeding population size of 3500-4300 pairs and a breeding range size of 646.000 square kilometres in the EU27. It has a winter population size of 6.300-11.200 individuals in the EU27. The EU population status of the White-tailed Eagle was assessed as secure, because the species does not meet any of the IUCN Red List criteria for threatened or Near Threatened, or the criteria declining (the EU27 population or range has not declined by 20% or more since 1980). The White-tailed Eagle is distributed over Central and Northern Europe as well as in parts of northern Asia.

Population Trend

The breeding population trend in the EU27 is Increasing in the short term and Increasing in the long term. The winter population trend in the EU27 is Increasing in the short term and Increasing in the long term.


Threats that affect this species include loss and degradation of wetlands, human disturbance and persecution, environmental pollution, collision with wind generators (Krone and Scharnweber 2003), and indiscriminate use of poisons. Modern forestry methods reduce the availability of suitable nesting habitat (Orta et al. 2013). Organochlorine pesticide and heavy metal pollution resulted in reductions in breeding success, particularly in the Baltic region (Orta et al. 2013). Although some losses may be taking place in Asian Russia owing to increased logging and oil industry development, these are outweighted by increases in Europe.


Ferguson-Lees, James; Christie, David A. (2001). Raptors of the World. Illustrated by Kim Franklin, David Mead, and Philip Burton. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0-618-12762-7. Retrieved 2011-05-29.

Helander, B., & Stjernberg, T. (2003). Action plan for the conservation of white-tailed sea eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla). In Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, Strasbourg, France.

Krone, O. & Scharnweber, C. (2003). Two white-tailed sea eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla) collide with wind generators in northern Germany. Journal of Raptor Research 37(2):174–176.

Love, J.A. (1983). The return of the Sea Eagle. Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0 521 25513 9.

National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America (4th ed.). Washington, D.C.: National Geographic. 2002. ISBN 978-0792268772.

Olsen, J. (2016). Notes on Sanford's Sea-Eagle Haliaeetus sanfordi and Other Raptors in the Solomon Islands. Australian Field Ornithology, 17(2).

Orta, J., Kirwan, G.M. and Boesman, P. 2013. Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. and de Juana, E. (eds.) 2013. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.