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 Booted Eagle  (Hieraaetus pennatus )




The Booted Eagle is a breeding bird of Southern Europe from Spain and Portugal eastwards, North Africa and South Asia east to Kentei. Most, if not all individuals migrate to Africa and India in winter.


Birds (often forest birds) up to the size of a Partridge. Small mammals and small reptiles such as lizards are also taken.


The normal calls include a high-pitched double whistle `ki-keee'. In display there is much calling like `pi-peee, pi-pi-pipi-peee', etc. At times they emit a longer scream like `kleeekkleeek'.

Status and behaviour in the wild

A small eagle, about the size of the Common Buzzard. In its pale phase the adults have blackish flight feathers contrasting with white under side, vaguely resembling the Egyptian Vulture. Dark phase birds are easy to confuse with Wahlberg's Eagle in Africa and melanistic Changeable Hawk-eagle in the East, but are smaller than either, a more variegated brown and more stockily built. Immatures are paler rufous below than those of Ayre's Hawk-eagle or Bonelli's Eagle.
The Booted Eagle is a woodland bird, inhabiting both deciduous and coniferous timber, generally in mountainous country up to 10,000 feet, but sometimes also on plains at sea level. It is a very dashing and attractive little eagle, with very swift flight, often diving into and weaving in and out among tree tops. It roosts in trees, or sometimes on crags, and spends much of the day on the wing, soaring at 100-500 feet above its woodland haunts. The pair are very often on the wing together and axe usually not very far apart. If one is watched the other will usually appear. When hunting the bird soars over open country or woodland and generally catches its prey on the ground with a fast stoop from height. It may be able to surprise birds on tree branches by its swift dives into the foliage from above. It hunts far more on the wing than do buzzards, which helps to identify it, and pairs often hunt close together.
It is, in part, a migrant from Europe in winter, but many birds are resident most of the year in their breeding haunts. Southward migration extends from late August to November, and migrants reach the plains of India and Africa, as far south as Malawi, from late September onwards. It seems likely that only northern birds migrate. Because of this it is, in its African wintering area, quite uncommon and seldom observed. On migration the birds follow the well-known routes and do not cross extensive areas of water - this is common behaviour among soaring birds, as crossing large areas of water requires long periods of sustained flapping flight, for which they are nor equipped. Going south they move in small flocks, perhaps in company with flocks of other raptors such as buzzard species. They are usually single or in pairs when returning northward.

Breeding behaviour

From the beginning of the breeding season, and during and after it, the birds perform very spectacular nuptial displays. The main feature is a series of dives followed by upward swoops, performed at great speed and accompanied by much calling. The male may dive at the female repeatedly, and she may turn on her back and present her claws upwards to his. A variant of display may be a long swift glide, with the feet sometimes hanging limp, ending in a tree or in a sudden swoop up into the air again. Looping has been recorded in display.
The nest is usually built in trees, 20-50 feet up, and is a solid structure of sticks about three to four feet across and two feet deep, lined with sprigs of pine or green leaves. Where trees are scarce, crags may be used. It is used year after year, and a pair may have more than one nest. Two eggs are normally laid, sometimes one, at intervals of several days.
Incubation begins with the first egg - the female only sitting. There is considerable difference in size in the young, and only one usually survives. The male brings food to the nest site during both the incubation period and the fledging period. The young are out of the nest by early August, indicating a total breeding time from eggs to fledging of about three months. The young accompany their parents in the territory for some time after making their first flight.

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