White-Tailed Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla)

White-Tailed Sea Eagle

Often confused with young golden eagle, with its white base (i.e. closest to body) to the tail, but White-Tailed Sea Eagle tail is white at other end. Young White-Tailed Sea Eagle has almost no white on tail. Young are dark brown all over. Mature birds are grey-brown, head & neck being slightly paler & white tail, eyes bright lemon coloured.. Mature colouring at around 5 yrs old.

Broader winged than Golden Eagle.

Once fairly extensively found round coast of Britain, wiped out by early 1900's. Breeding pair in Isle of Wight in 1780 (2 young), some in Lake District till early 1800's. Last pair nesting in Isle of Skye in 1916. Found in coastal regions of western Scotland. Found throughout western Europe (down to mediterranean) & Asia (as far east as China). Small population in Iceland & Greenland.


From the 1960 Edinburgh Zoo Annual report :
"A specially interesting addition to the collection was a splendid white-tailed or sea eagle presented by Mr. P. Davenport of Appin, Argyll. When first found the bird was identified as a golden eagle and the Society arranged for its transport direct from Argyll to London as Regent's Park was anxious for a specimen of this species. There its true identity was at once noted, and Regent's Park very generously notified the Society and offered to send the bird back to Scotland, an offer which was gratefully accepted. The bird has no settled down happily, is very tame, and, it is hoped, will soon occupy a large aviary next door to the Park's golden eagles where the two species can be more readily compared by visitors."
With thanks to Claire Bowie, Marketing Administrator, Edinburgh Zoo.

Reintroduction to Scotland was first attempted, unsuccessfully, in 1959, with 3 birds. One was a tame adult, which prefered the company of people (regularly posing for tourists along the Argyll coast) & was recaptured & returned to Edinburgh zoo (see box opposite). One of the other young was killed in a fox trap & the fate of the third is unknown. A second attempt was made in 1968, 4 birds being released on Fair Isle, all died or dispersed fairly quickly. Another attempt, which appears to be having some degree of success was started in 1975 on the Isle of Rum. Between 1975 & 1985, a total of 82 young birds were released (39 male/43 female), which dispersed extensively along the west coast of Scotland (2 went to Northern Ireland). First successfully hatched & fully fledged young bird was in 1984. The birds from the latter two attempts came from Norway. In May 2002, the RSPB reported that the population was around 100, including 12 breeding pairs. Unfortunately, this information was included in the report of the discovery of a poisoned juvenile, the RSPB were of the belief that it was deliberate.

Rather sociable. Often feed & roost in groups. Courtship starts at around 4-5yrs.

In the wild, the oldest known White-Tailed Sea Eagle was 27 when it died. In captivity, the oldest recorded bird was 42, it was totally blind. The first White-Tailed Sea Eagles to breed in captivity were at the Vienna Zoom in 1961, the pair continued to raise chicks until 1969. Other zoos have been successful since.

Mythology & Folklore :

Anglo-Saxons believed that the bones of sea-eagles possessed remarkable curative properties. Unfortunately, bird bones do not contain any marrow.

The Faroese believed that the claws of sea-eagles cured jaundice.

IUCN Red List Status :

Least Concern (LC)

Also Called :

Sea Eagle
European Sea Eagle
White-Tailed Fish-Eagle (This may be the currently accepted name)
Welsh Mor-eryr (Sea Eagle - [NOT Big Eagle thanks to Sion Owain Jones])
Eryr cynffonwyn (White Tailed Eagle)
Iolaire chladaich (Shore Eagle)
Iolaire mhara (Sea Eagle)
Iolaire ghlas (Grey Eagle)
Iolaire bhan (Pale Eagle)
Iolaire fhionn (White Eagle)
Iolaire suil na greine (Eagle With The Sunlit Eye - due to its bright yellow eyes)
Irish Iolar mara (Sea Eagle)
Danish Havørn
Dutch Zeearend
Esperanto Blankvosta maraglo
Estonian Merikotkas
Finnish Merikotka
Aigle de mer (Sea Eagle)
Pygargue à queue blanche
Pygargue commun
German Seeadler (Sea Eagle)
Θαλασσαετός (Thalassaetos)
Ασπρονουρις (Aspronouris, esp. on Ikaria)
(with thanks to Phil)
Hungarian Rétisas
Icelandic Haförn
Italian Aquila di mare
Norwegian Havørn
Portuguese Aguia-rabalva
Romanian Codalb
Russian Орлан-белохвост (Orlan-belokhvost)
Pigargo Comun
Pigargo Europeo
Pigargo Coliblanco
Pigargo Coliblanco De Groenlandia
Swedish Havsörn
bai wei jiu (White Tailed Eagle)
zhi ma diao (Sesame Eagle)
Japanese o-jiru washi (White Tailed Eagle)

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