White-tailed Eagle: Profile and Information

White-tailed Eagle

White-tailed eagle is among the most massive living birds of prey. It is also known as the 4th largest eagle in the world.

White-tailed eagles usually live near large open waters, requiring an abundance of food, and using old trees as well as ample sea cliffs for refuge.

The Bald eagle, which inhabits a similar niche in North America, is considered a close cousin to the white-tailed eagle.

The adult white-tailed eagle is usually greyish, medium-brown in colour. It has a clear pale look on the head, neck and top of the breast which is most frequently a buffy colour contrast to the rest of the plumage in adults.

The overall brownish colour of the adult stands out in comparison to the slightly wedged whitetail.

All bare parts of their body, including bills, cere, feet, eyes, are yellow on adults.

Scientific classification

SpeciesHaliaeetus albicilla


White-tailed eagles are typically distributed in Northern Europe and Northern Asia. They breed in Hokkaido, Japan and as far west as Greenland and Iceland. These birds reside in a wide range of habitats but are generally closely connected to water.

Many white-tailed eagles are often spotted in low-coastlines, estuaries and coastal marshlands, particularly during winter.

Birds generally need remote forests, groups of matured and tall trees as well as access to freshwater wetlands, such as lakes, river systems, ponds, or wide, low-range farmlands.

Habitat and Lifestyle

White-tailed eagles are diurnal and spend most of their day on trees or rocks. Couples stay on a rock, tree, crevices, overcrowded ledges or small isolated trees, sometimes near the nest jointly on a regular basis.

Although the white-tailed eagles are relatively sociable raptors, they are territorial, and occasional intrusion causes emotional conflict where one of them may die.

White-tailed eagle is known as partial migrants. They barely migrate to the west of their territories, and during winter, white-tailed eagles that breed as far north as Greenland, Iceland and coastal Norway do not migrate.

Migrating white-tailed eagles, particularly younger birds, become sociable during the winter season.

Many of those groups can consist of up to 10 birds and at least 30 – 40 individual birds in areas close to large breeding communities.

White-tailed eagle tends to apprehend their prey from perches in the “seat and wait” technique, usually from prominent tree perch. They are also classified as strong predator.

The fish are generally captured in a shallow dive, usually with the eagle’s feet wet alone after a short trip from a perch.

They even fish from beaches or gravel islands at times by diving into the shallows river or lake. White-tailed eagles frequently fly low on the shore of the sea or lake, trying to ambush their target when it comes to non-fish prey.

During the breeding season, white-tailed eagles become very vocal. The male makes a kick-krick-krick or gri-gri-gri sound while the female makes a krau-krau-krau or gra-gra-gra sound.

The pairs also duet in a flight, or from a perch in the early spring. Alarm calls are typically 3-4 brief, noisy, or klek sounds.


White-tailed Eagle

They are carnivores, and also scavengers. Their diet primarily consists of birds and fish, but it also consists of small mammals. Carrion is often their crucial food source during the winter months


White-tailed eagle is lifelong pairs and monogamous. The breeding season takes place in its southern range from January to July and in its northern region from April to September.

Pairs also participate in soaring, sky-dancing, and other aerial performances in early spring, all with a loud call, with stunning cartwheel down and claws touch.

In large trees, white-tailed eagle typically breeds and nest in high bifurcation, on the canopy or a broad lateral branch.

Typically, nests are wide, made of sticks and branches, averaging about 1 m in length and up to 2 m deep, with moss, greenery, algae and wool-lined up in various ways for its construction.

The female lays two large oval-shaped and dull white-coloured egg, which she incubates for 38 – 42 days.

The hatchling has a creamy white body, and their wings, as well as rumps, are greyish. They are likely to travel around the nest10 days after hatching, and they begin to growl after 80 days.

They become self-sufficient 1 or 2 months later and between 5 and 6 years they reach reproductive maturity.


Human activities primarily threaten White-tailed eagles for many years. These include habitat changes and wetland degradation.

It also consists of a hundred years of systemic persecution of humans, and accidental poisonings, as well as nesting failure epidemics due to several human-made chemicals that, have continued to be a potential problem for eagles since1950.

As a result, white-tailed eagles in many countries were deemed endangered or extinct.

These birds are unlawfully persecuted by game-bird shooting and egg thief, habitat loss, erosion, environmental degradation, accidental poisoning, and a collision with generation-wind as well as wind turbines.


Following the IUCN Red List, the entire White-tailed eagle population size is approximately 20,000 – 49,999 mature individuals.

The breeding population comprises of 9,000 – 12,300 breeding pairs in Europe, correlating to 17,900 – 24,500 mature individuals.

Presently, this species is categorized as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers are still rising today.

Fun facts

  • The Anglo-Saxon name” erne” for the White-tailed eagle signifies “soarer”. This bird also has many Gaelic names, such as iolarsùil na grèine or “eagle of the sun’s eye.
  • White-tailed eagles frequently pirate food from otters and other birds that include gulls, cormorants, corvids, ospreys, and several others raptors.
  • In the Shetland Isles, Scotland, fishers assumed that once a sea eagle emerge fish would climb to the surface, belly up; this resulted in a handful of fishers using eagle fat, smeared on their bait, to bolster their catch.
  • Couples of White-tailed eagles usually construct many nests within their home range and use them randomly throughout the years.
  • The White-tailed eagle is Germany’s national bird.
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