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Subspecies of Eagles

Amruta Gaikwad
Eagles are the largest birds of prey, that have the ability to fly at the highest levels and still spot their prey. This story introduces the various subspecies of the birds, that belong to Accipitridae family.
Eagles are the largest bird of prey, that form the apex of the food chain. Their strong talons, broad wings and meat-cleaver bill, make these birds the best predators. All the eagle species come from the Accipitridae family, but each species differs from the other.
There are around 60 types of eagle species that come from Buteoninae and Circaetinae subfamilies. They are monogamous and maintain their nests for several years. Both the parents take turns to incubate the eggs and keep close to the chicks till they become independent.
In case of scarcity of food, the dominant chick often preys on its younger siblings. Even the parents refrain from interfering the killing. Their keen eyesight, enables to spot distant preys, while their claws provide them with a strong grip.
This transcendence birds even have the strength to carry heavy preys, while they sore high up in the sky. Eagles can even glide and float into the air for long hours, due to their wide wingspan. Given below are a few types of eagles that come from different genera with some spectacular characteristics.

Bald Eagle

Binomial Name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Distribution: North America, Canada and Mexico
Diet: Trout, salmon, carrion, carcass of whales, ducks and birds
Body Length: 28-40 inches; Wingspan: 66-96 inches
The pure white crown on the bird, looks like it has a bald head. Hence, this bird of prey is commonly known as the Bald eagle. America's national bird and symbol has a brownish plumage with a pure white head and yellow hooked beak.
Females are larger and heavier than males. A bald eagle reaches its sexual maturity when it becomes five year old. The call is considered to be harsh and shrill. When left to survive in the wild, a Bald eagle can live up to 20 years.
It glides at a speed of 35-43 miles per hour (56-70 km per hour) and dives at 75-99 miles per hour (120-160 km per hour). Bald eagles prefer living near water and migrate to the coast in order to obtain food during winters.

Bateleur Eagle

Binomial Name: Terathopius ecaudatus
Distribution: Sub-Saharan Africa and South-west Arabia
Diet: Pigeons, sandgrouse and small animals
Body Length: 24-30 inches; Wingspan: 68.9 inches
Bateleur eagle is the national emblem of Zimbabwe. The head of the Bateleur eagle is black. It has red soft skin on its cheeks and the tip of the beak is black. The back of the bird is orange in color and its wings is a mix of brown, white and black. These eagles mate for life and remain faithful with each other.
In case of loss of one of the mate, the bird will go on to find another mate. Females lay single egg and incubates it for 42 to 43 days. Other birds from the family will also sometimes protect the unattended nests. A Bateleur eagle is a silent bird, but sometimes it can produce barks and many different calls.

Black-chested Buzzard Eagle

Binomial Name: Geranoaetus melanoleucus
Distribution: South America
Diet: Carrion, squamates, burrowing owl and mid-sized mammals
Body Length: 24-32 inches; Wingspan: 58-79 inches
The Black chested buzzard eagle is also known as Gray Buzzard eagle or Chilean Blue eagle. The bird has a huge plumage and is heavier and powerful compared to the other eagles. The color of the plumage is gray, which has brownish and bluish tinge to it.
The chest is black with small white dots on it. Black chested buzzard eagle has a short blackish tail. Trees and cliffs are common places for nesting. However, the bird has well adapted to nesting in cacti and bushes.
This species of eagles build new nests and perform their courtship ritual in flight. Considered to be a solitary eagle, it has a sharp vision and floats on thermal currents. With its sharp eyesight, black chested buzzard eagle can very well guard its territory.

Fish Eagle

Binomial Name: Haliaeetus vocifer
Distribution: Saharan Africa, Namibia
Diet: Fish, ducks, turtles, crocodiles, flamingos, frogs, carrion and terrapins
Body Length: 25-30 inches; Wingspan: 78.7 inches (males), 94.5 inches (females)
There are around 6 species of fish eagle; Madagascar Fish eagle, Sanford's Fish eagle, Lesser Fish eagle, African Fish eagle, Gray-headed Fish eagle and Pallas' Fish eagle. This one, however, is the African Fish eagle, which is the national bird of Zimbabwe and Zambia.
The head and the chest of this eagle is covered under white feathers. It has a yellow face with dark brown eyes. African fish eagle is monogamous and builds around 2 and more nests. Female lays up to 3 eggs and incubates for 45 days.
Both male and female take turns and incubates the eggs. Siblicide is often the problem in case of lack of food. The chicks usually venture out once they develop feathers and are able to hunt their own food.

Golden Eagle

Binomial Name: Aquila chrysaetos
Distribution: North America, Eurasia and parts of Africa
Diet: Hares, rabbits, squirrels and prairie dogs
Body Length: 27.6-33.5 inches; Wingspan: 72.8-86.6 inches
Golden Eagle has huge brown wings with a slight gray tinge to its tail. Some of the subspecies of Golden eagle are spread over North America, Japan, Korea and North Africa. The Golden eagle is dark brown in color and has patches of light brown feathers on its head and wings.
Golden eagles are very agile and have very strong talons. The nests are built on the cliffs and trees and are re-used for every nesting season. A female lays around 4 eggs and incubates them.
The chicks are fed for 50 days and nurtured till they become independent enough to fly and hunt their own food. Golden eagles can maintain a territory up to 60 sq miles (or 155 sq km) and can guard it efficiently too.

Martial Eagle

Binomial Name: Polemaetus bellicosus
Distribution: Saharan-Africa, Zimbabwe, South Africa
Diet: Guinea fowl, bustards, francolins and hares
Body Length: 30-38 inches; Wingspan: 74-89.4 inches
The head and the chest of the martial eagle are dark in color. Its lower body is white with tiny black spots on it. Females are larger compared to males. The Martial eagle is huge in size and can be compared with the Golden, Crowned and Verreaux's eagles.
Females are larger compared to males. This prey of bird prefers living in the open areas of desert . However, during the nesting season the bird nestles in trees. Their nests are huge in size with 3 feet deep and 2 m broad.
The females will lay a 1 or 2 eggs in two years and incubates them for 45 days. Before taking plunging on to their prey, Martial eagles mark their territory by circling in flight. Currently the bird is threatened due to hunting and loss of habitat.

Steller's Sea Eagle

Binomial Name: Haliaeetus pelagicus
Distribution: Kamchatka peninsula, Shantar and Kuril Island (Russia) and Japan
Diet: Cod, salmon, crabs, squids, trout, carrion
Body Length: 33-41 inches; Wingspan: 77-91 inches
Termed as the heaviest eagles, a Stellers sea eagle weighs around 19 lbs (9kg). There are two subspecies of Steller's sea eagle namely Haliaeetus pelagicus and H. p. niger. Its head and back are black in color and its tail and legs are white.
Wings are white at the top, while the rest of the portion is black. It has a dark yellow hooked beak which enables it to tear apart the flesh of its prey. The Steller's sea eagle has yellow feet with strong and sharp toes.
Breeding is observed during the months of February and March. They build massive nests in the trees and lay eggs in April. Eggs are incubated for 39 days. The Stellar's sea eagle's chicks are ash gray and white colored. This bird of prey develop its sexual maturity at the age of five.

White-tailed Eagle

Binomial Name: Haliaeetus albicilla
Distribution: Northern Europe and Asia
Diet: Carrion, fish, birds, rabbits and hares
Body Length: 27-36 inches; Wingspan: 72-96 inches
Rated as the fourth largest bird of prey, White Tailed eagle can live for 25 years. The plumage is a mix of brown shades, the head and neck area are paler. The white tail is the distinctive feature of this eagle and so are named as the White tailed eagle.
Their aerial courtship is a sight to watch as they lock in their talons and roll downwards in cartwheels. White Tailed eagles mate for life. The nests are huge, which are made of sticks and are built on trees or cliffs.
The nests are reused by other White Tailed eagles for years to breed and nurture their chicks. Female lays around three eggs every year, which are incubated for 38 days. The chicks grow faster and fledge at twelve weeks. Till the time the chicks become independent they remain in the vicinity of their parents.
Being these predators, many subspecies are threatened and have even been pushed to the brink of extinction. Hunting, deforestation and other factors are reasons behind the decline of these birds of prey.
However, certain conservation measures have proved helpful to certain eagle species. Eagles have always been associated as the powerful and dominant birds, with sharp vision. They form the most vital part of the ecosystem and therefore, they must be safeguarded from extinction.