White-bellied sea eagle

Its broad wings enable it to glide effortlessly on air currents, often seen navigating the coastal winds

JJ Harrison

A large and majestic bird of prey that commands the coastal and riparian regions of Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Indian subcontinent. Recognizable by its stark white underbelly and contrasting dark grey wings and back, this eagle is a skilled aerial hunter whose life is inextricably linked to the marine ecosystems it patrols.

With an impressive wingspan exceeding two meters, the white-bellied sea eagle soars above coastlines, estuaries, and inland waterways, where it primarily preys on fish. Utilizing its powerful vision, which is among the sharpest of any animal species, it can pinpoint fish movements even below the water’s surface. Once its prey is sighted, the eagle will make a steep, dramatic dive, extending its talons forward at the last moment to snatch the fish from the water with a success rate that underscores its hunting proficiency.

While fish constitute the bulk of its diet, the white-bellied sea eagle’s menu is opportunistic and varied, including turtles, sea snakes, carrion, and occasionally other birds. This dietary diversity makes the sea eagle an apex predator within its environment, playing a crucial role in maintaining the health and balance of the ecosystems it inhabits.

The breeding habits of the white-bellied sea eagle are also noteworthy. These eagles typically mate for life and return to the same nesting sites year after year. Their nests, known as eyries, are large structures built high in trees or on cliff ledges, offering safety from potential ground predators and a commanding view of the surrounding waters.

The cultural significance of the white-bellied sea eagle cannot be overstated. For many indigenous cultures, the sea eagle is a totemic figure imbued with spiritual meaning and revered as a guardian. It symbolizes strength, resilience, and freedom, and its presence in folklore and art underscores its importance beyond its ecological role.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Australia
2020
Bangladesh
2020
Brunei
2020
Cambodia
2020
China
2020
East Timor
2020
Hong Kong
2020
India
2020
Andaman Is.
Indonesia
2020
Laos
2020
Malaysia
2020
Myanmar
2020
Papua New Guinea
2020
Philippines
2020
Singapore
2020
Sri Lanka
2020
Taiwan
2020
Vagrant
Thailand
2020
Vietnam
2020

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No