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Eagle: Lesser Spotted Eagle

Identify and index birds in Southern Africa

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Lesser Spotted Eagle

Unread postby Wild about cats » Sun Feb 10, 2008 5:58 pm

Sorry! I can't remember! here are some more pix we took of birds that looked similar to it. We saw at least 20 of them.

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A close up...
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Unread postby deefstes » Mon Feb 11, 2008 9:50 am

I'd be much more inclined to think that it's a Lesser Spotted Eagle. Note the stove-pipe appearance to the legs and also the extent of the gape, not quite far enough for Steppe.
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Unread postby Imberbe » Mon Feb 11, 2008 10:11 pm

I also had a look at the Lesser Spotted Eagle, but decided against it.

The colour is more like that of the Steppe Eagle. This is a very dark brown bird, while the Lesser Spotted has much more lighter shades (it is called spotted after all). OK, I have also learnt that colour is a very variable thing in raptors.

There are nice pictures in Ulrich Oberprieler and Burger Cillie's Raptor book (Sappi) of the Steppe Eagle. It fits nicely with WACs photo. Including the relation of the gape to the eyes.

I am of opinion that it is between Whalbergs (dark variation) and Steppe. I am leaning towards Steppe. The "flat" tail may indicate Wahlbergs though.

But then I may be wrong ... lets ask its mom
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Unread postby Johan van Rensburg » Tue Feb 12, 2008 3:32 am

Looks like nobody else wants to chuck in a penny into the WaC collection plate. Seeing that I am up... at this time of day nogal, I can just as well...

Deefstes is again just his modest self... he is 100% spot-on with his ID. Those stove-pipe leggings are the feature that gives the best clue. But then there are the extras like head and bill shape... the Steppe eagle has got a real robust beak, much like a Tawny eagle and a real elongated scull. The LSE has a more "dainty" beak, much like a Wahlbergs and a more oval shape to its scull. Then there is that lighter "cheek" (not always seen in LSEs, but never in Steppes... no place for a cheek in any case... the gape goes there :lol: )

Hope this doesn't add to much to the confusion :twisted:
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Unread postby Johann » Tue Feb 12, 2008 7:46 am

Your brown eagle looks to me to be a Lesser-spotted as Deefstes and JvR has mentioned. We saw quite a lot of them and Steppe in the last month in both Kruger and Mapungubwe.
One thing you can't go on is the colour. They vary as much as any other of the brown eagles. The gape, bill shape, posture, leg covering etc. makes this a Lesser-spotted in my opinion.
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Unread postby Imberbe » Tue Feb 12, 2008 8:22 am

If the birding experts agree ... I stand corrected!

Thanks you guys. :wink: (Has anyone asked his mother?)
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Eagle: Lesser Spotted Eagle

Unread postby Jumbo » Mon Jul 14, 2008 10:57 am

Lesser Spotted Eagle (Aquila pomarina)

I photographed this immature Lesser Spotted Eagle in Kruger (on S25) in November 2006…..I know Johann has a stunning photo of an adult…. :wink:

One of the features of the Spotted Eagles that can be used to distinguish them from other eagles, like the Tawny and Wahlberg's Eagle, is the shape of their nostrils that are round and not oval like those of the other “brown” eagles….as can be seen from this closer crop.

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The Lesser Spotted Eagle is an uncommon summer visitor to southern Africa.

More info from Wikipedia:


Description
This is a medium-sized eagle, about 60 cm in length and with a wingspan of 150cm. Its head and wing coverts are pale brown and contrast with the generally dark plumage. The head and bill are small for an eagle. There is usually a white patch on the upperwings, and even adults retain a clear-marked white V on the rump; the wing markings are absent and the white V is not well-defined in the Greater Spotted Eagle. The Indian Spotted Eagle is entirely allopatric.
The juvenile has less contrast in the wings, but the remiges bear prominent white spots. It differs from Greater Spotted Eagle juveniles by a lack of wing covert spotting and the presence of a cream-colored neck patch.
The call is a dog-like yip.

Systematics, taxonomy and evolution
The birds formerly considered to be the resident Indian subspecies are now considered a separate species, the Indian Spotted Eagle (Aquila hastata), quite distinct and readily separable by morphological, behavioral, ecological and DNA sequence data. The European taxon is actually closer to the Greater Spotted Eagle; their common ancestor seems to have diverged around the middle Pliocene, perhaps some 3.6 million years ago (mya)[1], from the ancestors of the Indian birds. The "proto-Spotted Eagle" probably lived in the general region of Afghanistan, being split into a northern and a southern lineage when both glaciers and deserts advanced in Central Asia as the last ice age began. The northern lineage subsequently separated into the eastern (Greater) and western (Lesser) species of today, probably around the Pliocene-Pleistocene boundary not quite 2 mya.[2]
The spotted eagles as a group are quite distinct from the typical members of Aquila, the "true eagles".
The present species hybridizes occasionally with the Greater Spotted Eagle. Hybrid birds are almost impossible to identify if not seen from up close.[3]

Distribution and ecology
The Lesser Spotted Eagle breeds in Central and Eastern Europe and southeastward to Turkey, and winters in Africa. This is a very wary species of open or lightly wooded country, in which it hunts small mammals and similar terrestrial prey. This eagle lays 1-3 white buff-spotted eggs in a tree nest. As usual for eagles, only in breeding seasons with very abundant prey does more than one young fledge however: the female starts incubating when the first egg has been laid, and thus the first young to hatch usually outgrows its clutchmate(s) and will kill and even eat them sooner or later.

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Unread postby wildtuinman » Mon Jul 14, 2008 11:53 am

Tawny has an oval shaped nostril. But Wahlberg's has a round nostril as is the case with a Lesser-Spotted Eagle.

To distinguish the two of them confronted with a tough angle view on it which obscures the other tell tale signs, one would have to look closely at the eye color as well as the tarsi covering. A Wahlberg's has a brown eye as opposed to a the yellow'ish eye of an adult Lesser-Spotted Eagle. The tarsi of a Lesser-Spotted Eagle is also more stove-pipe like.

Do you have a picture of the legs of the bird for us perhaps, Jumbo?
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Unread postby Jumbo » Mon Jul 14, 2008 1:24 pm

wildtuinman wrote:Tawny has an oval shaped nostril. But Wahlberg's has a round nostril as is the case with a Lesser-Spotted Eagle.


Quite true, WTM…I got this piece of (incorrect) info from the Simply Birding forum :? ….It should be only Steppe and Tawny

wildtuinman wrote:To distinguish the two of them confronted with a tough angle view on it which obscures the other tell tale signs, one would have to look closely at the eye color as well as the tarsi covering. A Wahlberg's has a brown eye as opposed to a the yellow'ish eye of an adult Lesser-Spotted Eagle. The tarsi of a Lesser-Spotted Eagle is also more stove-pipe like.

Do you have a picture of the legs of the bird for us perhaps, Jumbo?


The eye colour is a way to differentiate between a Lesser Spotted and a Wahlberg's…but it only helps you with adult birds….only the adult Lesser Spotted Eagle has yellow eyes.

I unfortunately only have shots of the back ….cannot see the legs….but there are a few other features you can use to differentiate between the two …the most distinctive being (for immature LSE): “white bases to primaries, white edging to coverts and secondaries, a white, U-shaped crescent formed by the uppertail coverts, sometimes have a white patch on the back” (SASOL 3rd edition). If anything, the bird in my photos can rather be confused with a juvenile Steppe Eagle…but then the round shape of the nostrils excludes a Steppe.

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Unread postby wildtuinman » Mon Jul 14, 2008 2:01 pm

Jumbo wrote:
wildtuinman wrote:To distinguish the two of them confronted with a tough angle view on it which obscures the other tell tale signs, one would have to look closely at the eye color as well as the tarsi covering. A Wahlberg's has a brown eye as opposed to a the yellow'ish eye of an adult Lesser-Spotted Eagle. The tarsi of a Lesser-Spotted Eagle is also more stove-pipe like.

Do you have a picture of the legs of the bird for us perhaps, Jumbo?


The eye colour is a way to differentiate between a Lesser Spotted and a Wahlberg's…but it only helps you with adult birds….only the adult Lesser Spotted Eagle has yellow eyes.

I unfortunately only have shots of the back ….cannot see the legs….but there are a few other features you can use to differentiate between the two …the most distinctive being (for immature LSE): “white bases to primaries, white edging to coverts and secondaries, a white, U-shaped crescent formed by the uppertail coverts, sometimes have a white patch on the back” (SASOL 3rd edition). If anything, the bird in my photos can rather be confused with a juvenile Steppe Eagle…but then the round shape of the nostrils excludes a Steppe.


Yes, I did mention that the yellow'ish eye is present in an adult Lesser-Spotted Eagle.

Maybe I should start by explaining that I am not disputing the id. I have never seen this bird in the field before and like I have mentioned that if this bird was to be seen from a more tougher angle to make an id from, the legs would seem to be the target area for identification. I am making notes as to what to look out for as this bird does have a lot of similarities with the Wahlberg's Eagle.

SASOL III for instance mentions that there is no crest present at the Lesser-Spotted Eagle, but you picture shows the head with ruffled head feathers which inexperienced birders might confuse as a crest (I have too in the past).

I don't think that this bird is far from being an adult bird. I can't find any sign of a yellow nape patch for instance.

The male (5 years) seems to reach maturity a year later than the female (4 years) bird. There also seems to be no conclusion as to when this bird changes feather colors from immature to adult. I think this bird of yours could've fooled quite a few people into thinking that it was a Wahlberg's eagle from a front angle.

Just thought that the a photo of the legs would proof with little doubt that this bird can be distinguished from the similar looking Wahlberg's from a different angle perhaps.
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Unread postby Jumbo » Mon Jul 14, 2008 4:14 pm

wildtuinman wrote:Maybe I should start by explaining that I am not disputing the id.


I did not think you are trying to dispute the ID, WTM….you do however ask valid questions and hopefully the answers will help others. :)
Just for the record…I cannot take credit for the ID….it was given by Johann :clap: ….quite some time ago…I did however spend some time reading up and looking at photos of this eagle and agree with this ID, 100%

wildtuinman wrote:I have never seen this bird in the field before and like I have mentioned that if this bird was to be seen from a more tougher angle to make an id from, the legs would seem to be the target area for identification. I am making notes as to what to look out for as this bird does have a lot of similarities with the Wahlberg's Eagle.


The shape of the legs will most definitely help one to ID this bird ….but that is when you are able to see its full leg…..looking at the legs of a bird, perched like this one, one will probably not be able to get a good enough idea of the shape of the feathers on the legs :?

wildtuinman wrote:SASOL III for instance mentions that there is no crest present at the Lesser-Spotted Eagle, but you picture shows the head with ruffled head feathers which inexperienced birders might confuse as a crest (I have too in the past).


True, the LSE does not have a crest, like the Wahlberg’ s does, but in various literature the LSE is described to have "long and pointed nape feathers". I have looked at several photos of juvenile LSE’s, taken in Europe and Middle East….and it appears this eagle often puffs up the feathers on its head, giving it this rounded, spiky look. (example: look on this page...have to scroll down a bit)

On another point: On basically all the photos I found of juvenile LSE, the white patch on the back was prominent….as it shows on the bird in my photo.

wildtuinman wrote: I think this bird of yours could've fooled quite a few people into thinking that it was a Wahlberg's eagle from a front angle.


I agree, and I think it will be very difficult to differentiate between the two when it comes to adult birds….yip, the eye colour should help you, but I’m sure you will agree that eye colour is subject to light conditions etc. It is said that most sightings of LSE’s in southern Africa is of juvenile birds….I believe this is solely because it is easier to ID the juveniles/ immature birds :?

Some other points one can look at when differentiating between Lesser Spotted and a Wahlberg’s Eagles:

- The Wahlberg’s has a smaller beak…IMHO, you need a very trained eye to notice this. :roll:
- When perched, the tail of the Wahlberg’s extends well beyond its wings….and the tail is more square. The tail of the LSE is about the same length as its wings and the tail is rounded.
- The Wahlberg’s Eagle has barring on its lower tail …although, in some birds it is not always that visible.

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Unread postby Johann » Thu Jul 17, 2008 1:19 pm

Thanks for the compliment Jumbo. I have a got some more pics somewhere, but will have to go look for them.
We saw hundreds first in Mapungubwe and then in KNP around Shingwedzi during January 2008 so I had the opportunity to get a few shots in. They seem to be quite shy and would usually not be comfortable with our presence so made it hard to get plenty decent pics.

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Unread postby wildtuinman » Fri Jul 18, 2008 6:47 am

Johann, your bird shows what appears to be a clear crest. Very interesting.
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Unread postby Johann » Fri Jul 18, 2008 8:26 am

Ja, I don't know if we should read much into that. Photo taken at midday in beginning of January. It was hot!
I'm sure the bird was trying to cool off a bit: open beak, wings slightly open to allow the little bit of breeze to blow through and crest raised, hiding away in the shade.
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Re: Identification Help - Raptors

Unread postby Kingfishergirl » Thu Feb 12, 2009 5:47 pm

IMG missing
Hey guys, there has been a lot of speculation about this one on another forum. It seems to be a conflicting little birdie. I have heard everything from Tawny to Lesser Spotted to Wahlberg's. Does anyone here have any further ideas or concrete suggestions on who this little fellow could be? :hmz:
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