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 Post subject: Re: Identification Help - Raptors
Unread postPosted: Fri Jan 16, 2015 6:29 pm 
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DotDan wrote:
salamanda wrote:
Just for my own clarification - so the Steppe Eagle and the Tawney both have oval nostrils but the Steppe's is more oval?



Sorry Salamanda, I am confusing myself here. It is the Lesser Spotted Eagle's that can be distinguished from Tawny/Steppe Eagle with it's round nostril shape.

WTM is correct in saying there isn't really a difference in nostril shape between Steppe and Tawny.



Fine DD; I have so many confused areas re bird ID that one more makes no difference really :lol:

Why I asked is because I saved a helpful piece of info from the forum some time back regarding Tawny Eagles vs Wahlberg's Eagle and I thought I remembered the Tawny's nostril as oval so I'm glad I was right on that, at least!

I cant find it on the forum, but I have now dug my copy up and I'm sure the person who posted it wont mind if I repost it here as it came from the forum and must still be around somewhere . . . . Someone else might find it useful.



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Image

Apart from the obvious things such as distribution, coloration and size, to id this bird it would be a good start to look at 4 basic things:

1. Tarsus - Eagles have tarsi which are covered by feathers. Thus this would be on of the eagle species. This would distinguish eagles from similar looking Buzzards.

2. Cere - I've mentioned the cere more for explaining where and what it is rather than helping with an id in raptors. But it is sometimes worthwhile to notice the cere's coloration to distinguish different raptor species. In this case the yellow cere would exclude species like Martial Eagle, Crowned Eagle, African Hawk Eagle, etc.

3. Gape - This bird's gape extends to the middle of the eye. This immediately rules out birds like Steppe and Lesser Spotted eagles. Now we basically broke it down to 2 likely possibilities:

Tawny and Wahlberg's eagles.

4. Nostril - Wahlberg's have a round nostril where as Tawny's is oval shaped.

And via this route we can then conclude that this bird is indeed a Tawny eagle. In the field the eye showed a yellowish eye, indicative of a mature bird.


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 Post subject: Re: Identification Help - Raptors
Unread postPosted: Sat Jan 17, 2015 7:28 am 
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DotDan wrote:
About 2 years ago on this forum, there was this debate where some great birders gave me some fantastic tips on distinguishing between Steppe and Tawny. I too had a Tawny that really puzzled me and after some good debating and a little overexposing of the image it was finally ruled as a Tawny.

If I could find that post I would love to share it as it might provide you all with some great tips.


I'll do my best to find this discussion for you on the Forum DotDan. I went through Tawny and Steppe Eagles on the Bird Index, but couldn't find an indepth discussion of these two raptors there. I'll search further later on. :thumbs_up:

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 Post subject: Re: Identification Help - Raptors
Unread postPosted: Mon Jan 19, 2015 7:53 am 
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Thanks Hilda, I think it was around March/April 2012


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 Post subject: Re: Identification Help - Raptors
Unread postPosted: Mon Jan 19, 2015 8:36 am 
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Hi Salamanda,

that post was made by yours truly a hundred years ago. :wink: :lol:

Kind regards

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 Post subject: Re: Identification Help - Raptors
Unread postPosted: Mon Jan 19, 2015 9:01 am 
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Well thank-you WTM - it was a very clear and helpful post and posts like this deserve the odd re-airing :D :D


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 Post subject: Re: Identification Help - Raptors
Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2015 3:57 am 
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DotDan wrote:
I think it was around March/April 2012


I know this post is too old DotDan, but here is a description of the Tawny Eagle by Johan van Rensburg posted on 10/02/2007: HERE.

I'm still searching for the debate you were referring to, but this is also a good read. (The forum is very slow.) :thumbs_up:

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 Post subject: Re: Identification Help - Raptors
Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2015 9:23 am 
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The Adult Steppe Eagle is a very dark brown bird with a smaller bill (difficult to judge) than that of a Tawny which is a much more buffy- or tawny-coloured bird, but you do get darker birds which are heavily streaked. The adult Steppe Eagle also has a dark brown eye whereas the adult Tawny Eagle shows a yellow eye.

However keep in mind that the majority of Steppe Eagles visiting SA are either immature or juvenile birds thus showing a clear white line on the wings which Naomi's bird is not showing.

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 Post subject: Re: Identification Help - Raptors
Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2015 9:33 am 
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I would probably go as far as to say that you could much rather confuse a Steppe Eagle with a Lesser-spotted Eagle in the sense that the plumage of the immature birds (which are most common in SA) are very similar.

Then you will distinguish the two from each other by looking at the tarsi (baggy feathered in Steppe and stove-pipe like in Lesser Spotted), the obvious smaller size of the Lesser Spotted, but which is not always easily judged in the field and it would seem looking at Daan's photos the nostril shape (horizontally-rounded in Lesser Spotted and vertically-elongated in Steppe Eagle).

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 Post subject: Re: Identification Help - Raptors
Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2015 1:23 pm 
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Aquila identification is challenging, and even with good photographs, many species cannot be identified with certainty. It's often helpful to photograph the bird in flight, but by no means is that always enough to solve the problem of identifying it. Tawny and Steppe eagles are among the most problematic birds to tell apart. Steppe was until quite recently considered a subspecies of Tawny, and with good reason. In some plumages, it's simply not possible to tell them apart.

Field guides tend to overstate the differences. The guides are not wrong, but to demonstrate a point they use the "average individual”, and Aquila eagles are nothing if not variable.

Generally, when observing eagles, try to get good shots… (that is why I mentioned in an earlier post that patience and perseverance will be rewarded!)

1. Beak: robust vs petite (both Steppe and Tawny have similarly shaped robust beaks. Some say the Tawny beak is more massive, but I am not able to see much of a difference.)

2. Nostril – oval vs round (both Steppe and Tawny have vertically orientated oval nostrils)

3. Gape in relation to the eye – (this is a tricky feature, and should be used with caution as it is compounded with the angle of view. A gape, seen side-on, that ends in the middle of the eye favours Tawny; extending beyond, favours Steppe)

4. Leggings – Fully-feathered tarsi is a sanity check that we're looking at an eagle, not something else. Even the size and colour of the feet often hold clues.

5. Plumage – you have several plumages for juvenile, sub-adult and adult of both species. The most reliable ID criteria is the pattern of primaries and secondaries, so try to get good pictures of the underwing and detail of barring in the wing and tail. Concentrate on greater coverts for suspected juvenile Steppe to record the whitish base of primaries, as WTM states, juvies are the most likely Steppe eagle find in SA.

6. Eye colour – On its own eye colour is not definitive as age of birds plays a major role in eye colour.

Ultimately an ID depends on the portfolio of evidence. The more facts are collected, the surer an ID can be made. A lesson from BBJs: if the evidence is flimsy, an ID is sometimes just not possible.

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 Post subject: Re: Identification Help - Raptors
Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2015 3:25 pm 
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Thanks Johan! This might evoke another (similar) debate of the one I'm still searching for in between my work. :D

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 Post subject: Re: Identification Help - Raptors
Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2015 3:39 pm 
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Thanks for the tutorial on how to id eagles, Johan :thumbs_up: Quite a lot to think about :hmz:
I take comfort from the fact that the fundis say aquila id-ing is challenging :whistle:

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 Post subject: Re: Identification Help - Raptors
Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2015 3:44 pm 
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I have found that once you know what to look for and have seen the 3 other brown eagles such as Wahlbergs, Lesser Spotted and Tawny, it gets easier to ID them in the field, but I think Steppe is a bit more difficult because it is not seen often and is not a bird one gets to compare often enough to understand the differences between the other Eagles.


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 Post subject: Re: Identification Help - Raptors
Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 22, 2015 4:03 am 
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Sorry DotDan, I have done an intensive search for the debate you were referring to between Steppe and Tawny Eagles, but couldn't find it. :(

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