Steppe Eagle

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Image:SteppeEagle.jpg

Common Name: Steppe Eagle
Scientific Name: Aquila nipalensis

Size: 24-32 inches (62-81 cm); Wingspan: 64-85 inches (165-215 cm)

Habitat: Eurasia and Africa; it breeds from Romania east through the south Russian and Central Asian steppes to Mongolia. The European and Central Asian birds winter in Africa, and the eastern birds in India.

Throughout its range, it is found in open, dry habitats, such as desert, semi-desert, steppes, or savanna. During the breeding season, A. n. orientalis can be found in lowlands and low hills, whereas A. n. nipalensis is found in mountainous areas up to elevations of 2,300 meters.

Status: Least Concern. Global population: 160,000 adult individuals with a decreasing population trend. The population is declining owing to habitat destruction (especially conversion of steppe into agricultural land), persecution, and collisions with power lines (electrocution is a serious problem). Locally populations are declining owing to heavy predation of their chicks.

Steppe eagles are opportunistic scavengers, which may expose them to the risk of diclofenac poisoning.

Diet: Small mammals, birds, insects and carrion. It hunts small mammals on its breeding grounds, with susliks (a type of ground squirrel) forming the vast majority of its diet in some areas. When wintering, it feeds mainly on mole rats in East Africa, and termites and birds such as the Red-billed Quelea that predominate in southern Africa.

Typically, this species soars high above its prey, before making a steep dive and seizing the animal in its powerful talons, but it may also steal prey from other raptors while in flight, or catch prey while on the ground, often by waiting outside a burrow entrance.

Nesting: Females are slightly larger than males. Sexes are alike with brown upper-parts and blackish flight feathers and tail. There are well-defined bars on the flight and tail feathers. The gape (edge of the mouth) extends beyond the center of the eye and the nostril is an oval shape. There is also a reddish-brown patch on the nape of the neck.

Immature birds are less contrasted than adults, but both show a range of variation in plumage color.

Steppe eagles arrive at their summer breeding grounds around April, at the start of spring. Large nests, up to a meter wide, are constructed from twigs and lined with various materials, such as old rags and camel dung. Nests have traditionally been built as large platforms on the ground, although recent habitat alterations by humans seem to have caused a shift to building a few meters higher in bushes or trees.

It lays 1–3 eggs in its nest. The incubation time is about 45 days. The young stay in the nest for about 60 days. Cainism (the killing of young eagles by their older siblings) does not occur with this.

Cool Facts: Formerly thought to be the same species as the Tawny Eagle (Aquila rapax) with witch the Steppe Eagle is closely related. Today, they are definitely regarded as separate species.

There are to subspecies of Steppe Eagle:

  • A. n. nipalensis. The nominate eastern subspecies. It is larger and darker than A. n. orientalis.
  • A. n. orientalis. The European and Central Asian species.

The oldest recorded Steppe Eagle lived 41 years in captivity.


This 3D model is found in Songbird ReMix Birds of Prey Volume IV: Eagles of the World

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