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Home > About the eagle

About the Lesser Spotted Eagle

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Name of the species: Aquila pomarina*, Linnaeus 1766

English name: Lesser spoted eagle

Conservation Status: Vulnerable

Ecology of the species:

The species breeds in lowland woodland, floodplain forest, hills and mountain forest. It nests in old forest stands, building a large nest of sticks in old trees (von Dobay 1934, Gentz 1965, 1967, Haraszthy et al. 1996, Hoffmann 1938, Meyburg 1970, 1973, 1994, Wendland 1932 1951, 1958). Exceptionally nests are built on rocks or on the ground (Pcola 1991, Reistetter 1991). A very important factor in the choice of nest sites is the presence of open countryside close to the nest. The species feeds on adjacent pastures, cultivated areas and wet meadows. It hunts over open fields and farmland (Meyburg et al. 2004). A great variety of open countryside types is important, although tall crops such as maize or sunflowers inhibit access to prey (Scheller et. al. 2001). During wintering (in Africa) occupies a variety of habitats including open countryside, scrubland, and wetlands (Brooke et al. 1972, Meyburg et al. 1995).

The diet consists of mammals (Apodemus, Microtus, Cricetus, Citellus), amphibians (Rana), birds (Alauda, Emberiza, Coturnix), reptiles (Lacerta, Natrix) and insects (Grasshoppers). In the Carpathian Eco-region its main prey is the Field Vole (Microtus arvalis). In wintering habitats, the diet apparently consists largely of Red-billed Quelea (Quelea quelea), nestlings and swarming termite elates as well as small mammals and frogs. (Haraszthy et al. 1996, Scheller & Meyburg 1996, Vlachos & Papageorgiou 1996).

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The breeding cycle is from April until early September, with significant annual variation. The clutch usually consists of 2 eggs, often 1 and very rarely 3, laid at the beginning of May (Kalabér, L. 1974, Meyburg 1970, 1994). Incubation is 38-45 days, and the second nestling often dies due to cainism, the older chick killing its sibling during the first 14 days after hatching (Meyburg 1970, 1974). The young fledge when 50-57 days old, sexual maturity is reached at the age of 3-4 years. Breeding success is very low (0.5-0.8 fledgling / breeding attempt) and varies from year to year (Meyburg 1970, 1973, 1994, Neubauer 1991, Rodziewiez 1996, Svehlik & Meyburg 1979). There is a relatively high level of unsuccessful pairs; studies in Central Transylvania (Romania) recorded a breeding success rate of 0.6 young / breeding attempts and 0.25 young per pair (Zeitz & Daróczi 2001).

A. pomarina is a migratory species, birds usually leave for their winter quarters in September, migrate across the Bosporus, and pass through Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania to winter in Central and Southern Africa: southern Zaire, northern Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, southern Angola, Botswana and northern South Africa (Meyburg et al. 1995, Danko et al. 1996, Christensen & Sorensen 1989). Adults leave earlier than juveniles (Domahidi Z., Zeitz R., and Daróczi J. Sz., 2003). Little is known about the ecology of immature and subadults; most of them probably remain in Africa during summer. Important concentration points during migration (bottle-neck areas) include Burgas (Bulgaria), the Bosporus, the Belen Pass (Turkey), Lebanon, Israel, Suez, and Borcka/Arhavi (Caucasus, Turkey).

General distribution of the species at European and Romanian level and population trends:

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The breeding range is restricted mostly to Europe (central, eastern and south-east Europe), but the species also breeds in Anatolia and the Caucasus and eastwards to Iran. In Europe it occurs as a breeding species in Germany, Poland, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Albania, Slovak Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Republic of Moldavia, Ukraine, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Russia. It has suffered a major decline in many countries, especially at the western and southern extent of its range (Meyburg et al. 2004). It is now very rare or extinct in many areas, e.g. Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Serbia and large parts of Greece (Meyburg 1994). The global population size is unknown but has been estimated to be around 20,000 pairs (Meyburg 1996), in Europe 13,000 – 16,000 pairs (Génsbøl & Thiede 2004). Counts at migration bottlenecks show that these figures underestimate the actual population (Shirihai H, and Christie, O.A. 1992). A. pomarina is considered to be a species in decline throughout its whole range, with populations at the fringes of its range being most vulnerable.

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The Carpathians are one of the most important strongholds of the species. As the result of the most resent studies the Romanian population is estimated at 2,000-2,300 pairs. This population is not uniformly distributed throughout the country; main strongholds are in Transylvania, western Romania and eastern slopes of the Eastern Carpathians. Small populations exist also in Eastern, South-eastern and Southern Romania.

Romania holds an important population of this species: 12.5 % of the European and 10 % of the global population.

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