Haliaeetus albicilla (Linnaeus, 1758)

Haliaeetus albicilla imageSynonyms: Haliaeetus nisus Savigny,1826; Haliaëtus brooksi Hume, 1870; Haliaëtus hypoleucus Ridgway, 1884; Haliaetos orientalis Brehm, 1831; Haliaetos islandicus Brehm, 1831; Haliaetos leucocephalus Brehm, 1831; Haliaetos groenlandicus Brehm, 1831; Haliaetos cinereus Brehm, 1855; Haliaetos funereus Brehm, 1855; Vulture albicilla Linnaeus, 1758; Aquila albicilla Nilson, 1858; Aquila borealis Brehm, 1824; Aquila Islandica Brehm, 1824; Aquila Groenlandica Brehm, 1824; Falco albicilla Linnaeus, 1758; Falco melanaëtos Linnaeus, 1766; Falco Ossifragus Linnaeus, 1766; Falco albicaudus Gmelin, 1788; Falco hinnularius Latham, 1790; Falco pygargus Daudin, 1800.

Common names: Engl: White-tailed eagle: Bulg: Morski orel; Rom: Codalb; Russ: Orlan-belokhvost; Turk: Beyaz kuyruklu kartal, Ak kuyruklu kartal; Ukr: Orlan-bilohvist.

Order (Scientific): FALCONIFORMES.

Family (Scientific): ACCIPITRIDAE.

Taxonomic descriptions: A very large eagle with wide, long wings, a massive-built yellow beak and short wedge-shaped white tail. In flight the primaries are flung out like fingers. It has a brown-grey plumage, the head and throat are lighter. Young have a dark brown head and tail and dark grey beak, barred underwings and belly.

Haliaeetus albicilla arealIUCN Status:
    World level: NE
    Black Sea Regional level: VU
    Subregion level: VU

Distribution: Along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast nesting areas are located near Lake Mandra, by the rivers Djavolska and Ropotamo (and on the marsh Arkutino), and in Dobrudja - to the west of Lake Shabla. Several pairs nest in the Danube delta, by the large basins in the Romanian part of Dobrudja (Puscariu, 1968). In the past nests were found by Lake Serbanul by Braila, near Chilia Veche, near Lake Sinoe and to the south of Gridul Lupitor (Lintia, 1954). According to V. Zubarowskii (1977), the White-tailed Eagle was nesting in Odessa and the districts of Hersonska and Zaporojka. Nests were found on the lower courses of the rivers Dnestar and Dnepar. Several pairs were nesting regularly in the southern rocky part of the Crimean mountains and in the high-stemmed woods of the Crimean reserve (Kostin, 1983). 7-8 pairs of White-tailed Eagles nest in the lower course of the river Don (Golushin, 1983). 2 pairs breed in the lower course of the river Kuban (Zabalotnii N., A. Hohlov, 1995). Also during the breeding season one White-tailed Eagle was observed in the Ahtanizolski firth (Tilba P.etal 1990). Nesting areas along the Georgian coast are unknown. In the northern Black Sea regions of Turkey White-tailed Eagles nest to the west and east of Istanbul and mainly in the river Kizilirmak delta (The OST Bird Report, 1975; Cramp S., K. Simmons (eds.), 1980). During migrations and especially in winter, the basins along the whole Black Sea coast become important habitats for White-tailed Eagles from the northern populations (from the Scandinavian peninsula and the European part of Russia).

Habitats type, Critical habitats, Limiting factors: In the breeding season as well as during migrations and wintering keep close to wooden and rocky areas near the seashore or lakes and rivers. It is attracted by clear basins full of fish and water birds.

Biology: A monogamous bird which starts breeding after its 4th year. Pairs build nests on high trees or on rocks at a distance of several km. from each other. Lay 3-4 eggs in February - March, brood more than 1 month, young remain in the nest 2-3 months and after fly away stay one more month in the area where parents feed them. Omnivorous bird. Except for fish and water birds it also feed on mammals, rats, rabbits, foxes, wandering dogs and cats, tortoises and scavenges. In winter it stays close to concentrations of water birds (geese, ducks, coots, herons, grebes, gulls and others) and feeds on ill, weak or frozen birds. By the seashore it picks washed ashore carcasses of dolphins, fishes and birds and other scraps.

Population trends: In the past it was a common nesting species along the coasts of the Black and the Sea of Azov and along the valleys of the big rivers, running into the seas. There was a major decline in the population during the period 1960-1965. After that the number began slowly to increase. This is a result of the successful breeding and resettlement of the species in Central Europe (H” rig, 1986), the huge increase of the population in Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia, from where along the river Danube the White-tailed Eagle has resettled its previous habitats along the Black Sea coast. The feeding of birds in Scandinavia, the decrease environmental pollution and the decline in hunting in Eastern Europe during the last 10th years has also helped this. Now along the coasts of the Black and the Sea of Azov about 30 pairs breed.

Threats: The pollution of the basins with different kinds of poisons, the drainage of marshes, the cutting down of woods and the tourist invasion along the seashore, the use of poisonous baits and traps for wolves and foxes, the meaningless shooting of birds and the destruction of nests. Among the enemies of the Haliaeetus albicilla are the Falco cherrug and large colonies of ants, which sometimes force the eagles to leave their nests.

Conservation measures taken: The species is world endangered and is included in Application II of the Washington Convention, forbidding the trade in wild animal and plant species, threatened with extinction. It is protected by laws for the protection of nature in many European countries, including those in the Black Sea region. It is listed in the Red Books of Bulgaria, Ukraine and Russia. Many of its habitats along the seashores of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov are protected territories or wetlands with international importance (National Park Strandja, the deltas of the rivers Danube, Dnestar, Dnepar, the Black Sea reserve, the islands of Lebiajie, the river Kizilirmak delta and others).

Conservation measures proposed: Ban the pollution of the basins with poisons and industrial wastes. The preservation of the woods, the restriction of tourist building and tourist invasion in its habitats along the seashore. Natural protective propaganda among the population, especially among hunters.


  1. Cramp S., K. Simmons (eds.) 1980. The Birds of the Western Palearctic, Oxford 2: 1-695.
  2. Golushin V. 1983. Orlan-belohvost Haliaeetus albicilla (Linnaeus, 1758), “Krasnaia kniga RSFSR, jivotnie”. “Rosselhozizdat”, Moscow: 215-217.
  3. Hörig H. 1986. Seeadlerbestand weiter angewachsen. “Unsere jagd”, 36,5: 148-149.
  4. Kostin J. 1983. Pticiu Krima. Izd. “Nauka”, Moscow: 1-241.
  5. Lintia D. 1954. Pasarile din R.P.R. vol.2: 1-301. Bucuresti.
  6. Puscariu V. 1968. Observations sur la reproduction et L’ ecologie de Haliaeetus albicilla dans le delta du Danube. “Trav. Mus. hist. nat.” “Gr. Antipa”, 8,2: 959-968.
  7. The Ornithological Society of Turkey. Bird Report. 1975, 3: 1-319.
  8. Tilba P., R. Mnacekanov, M. Emtal, G. Plotnikov, S. Solovev, A. Ivanenko, 1990. O redkih pticah Vostochnoto Priazovia. “Redkie, malochislenie I maloizuchenie ptic Sev. Kavkaza”, Stavropol: 91-96.
  9. Zabolotnii N., A. Hohlov, 1995. Zametki o nekotorih redkih pticah ptitsah nizovii Kubani. “Kavkazskii orn. vestnik”, 7: 16-17.
  10. Zubarowskii V. 1977. Fauna Ukraini. Tom 5 Ptahi, bip. 2 Hiji ptahi. “Naukova dumka”, Kiev: 1-331.
  11. Red Data Book of Ukraine, p.333.

Compiled by: D.Nankinov.