Archived 2010-2011 topics: Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga): information requested.

Link to BirdLife species factsheet for Greater Spotted Eagle

Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga is currently listed as Vulnerable under criterion C2a(ii) on the IUCN Red List because its global population is estimated to number just 5,000-13,200 mature individuals, extrapolated from an estimated 810-1,100 pairs breeding in Europe (BirdLife International 2004).

During the revision of the conservation status of Lesser Spotted Eagle A. pomarina at in 2006 Martin Flade in litt. (2006) commented that Greater Spotted Eagle “is still quite common in the whole W-Siberian lowlands from Ural mountains to the middle Ob (and onwards to E-Siberia)”. No comprehensive assessment of the species’s population size globally or population trends in different parts of its range exists; however, given the species’s massive global range it is highly plausible that its population exceeds 10,000 mature individuals (the threshold for listing as VU under criterion C) and may warrant downlisting. The species is long-lived with an estimated generation length of 16.6 years (BirdLife International, unpublished data); if its population has declined by >30% over the past three generations (50 years) it would qualify as Vulnerable under criterion A2.

Information about the species’s population size and declines are requested to improve our assessment of its global status.

BirdLife International (2004) Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International.

(This discussion was first started as part of the 2010 Red List update)

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5 Responses to Archived 2010-2011 topics: Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga): information requested.

  1. Andy Symes says:

    Comments received as part of 2010 update

    Vivek Jain (October 2009):
    In India various check lists of PAs report the presence of Aquila clanga. BNHS also report its presence in various states. In case of Madhya Pradesh, It was reported to exist in kanha, Panna, pench and chambal but the individual checklist dont report . A need for extensive survey is required. I feel we are just making estimates on the basis of old records..

    Rimgaudas Treinys (January 2010):
    In Lithuania during 2000-2007 was registred and described 362 adults Spotted Eagles (i.e., A.pomarina, A.clanga) during breeding season. 3.6% of these eagles according species specific plumage characters (for details see Forsman 1999) was identified as A.clanga. But due to intensive hybridization over western A.clanga range (Väli et al. in press), and thus very difficult identification in the field, this picture could even overestimate the real rarity of the species in this country. Moreover, only half of observed clanga was attributed to territorial birds.In the country are regular but few reccords per year of this species from birdwatchers. Observation of A.clanga places are usually from the eastern, southesastern and western country parts, they border with Belorus, Poland and Kaliningrad region where still present local breeding populations of A.clanga. Thus “direct” estimation of the A.clanga mature birds in the country using whole (territorial) Spotted Eagles population in the country (1931-2869 territorial pairs at 75% probability, Mischenko et al. in press) could be overestimation. Thus using suggestive estimation based on monitoring, research data,and birdwatchers info, few tens of A.clanga birds could hold Lithuania yearly. Sincerly R.Treinys

    Igor Karyakin (January 2010):
    Under the projects of the Center of Field Studies (N.Novgorod), Siberian Environmental Center (Novosibirsk), the Volga-Ural ECONET Assistance Center (Samara) and the Ecological Center “Dront” (N.Novgorod) information about status of the Greater Spotted Eagle has been collected in the territory between Volga and Yenisey rivers since 1990-s. Now more than 450 breeding territories of the Greater Spotted Eagle are known in the territory, 10-40 breeding territories at the largest breeding groups inhabiting the Belaya river valley ((Republic of Bashkortostan) and the Altai Pine Forests (Altai Kray) are monitored every year. I published a review on the Greater Spotted Eagle in the center of Russia in 2008 ( Last results of the monitoring of the breeding group in the Altai Kray were published in 2009 ( The population of the Greater Spotted Eagle is estimated as 4000 – 4500 breeding pairs (in the European part of Russia – 500-800 pairs). The number is rather stable, in some regions growing. In Pre-Ural and Western Siberia pairs of the species were observed in places, where the Imperial Eagle has disappeared.
    At the same time the large territory of Konda and Vasyugan swamps in Western Siberia, where we project the high breeding density of the Greater Spotted Eagle, has been not surveyed yet.

    Elchin Sultanov (February 2010):
    This is eastern origin species and biggest part of area located in Siberia and close territories. These territories impossible cover fully for research. So we can be sure that real number of birds is quite many. Some understanding we can receive from letters on the forum (Karyakin). We can downlist this species to Near Threatened as minimum.
    Elchin Sultanov (AOS, Azerbaijan)

    Ulo Väli (February 2010):
    In Estonia, the numbers of the greater spotted eagle territories have been decreasing from 20-30 pairs in 2003 (Elts et al 2003, Hirundo) to 10-20 in 2008 (Elts et al 2009, Hirundo, detailed data will be also available in Väli et al. in press, Biol. J. of the Linn. Soc.). However, the reproductive population of the species in Estonia consists now only of few pairs as some two thirds of the territories are occupied by birds hybridising with the lesser spotted eagle. There has been no apparent recent change in habitats of breeding sites nor breeding success, and adult mortality and turnover are low. The most plausible explanation for the decline in Estonia, located on the north-western border of the range, is the range contraction indicating the decline of European population. The extensive hybridisation between the greater and the lesser spotted eagle in Europe (Väli et al. in press, Biol. J. of the Linn. Soc.) also indicates the poor condition of the European population.

    Igor Karyakin and his colleagues have done great job in exploration of Asian populations of the species. However, some other Asian studies have indicated the decline of local populations. Continuous monitoring in study areas across the range and comprehensive literature review is needed before concluding the welfare of the global population. The ongoing compilation of the raptor volume in Birds of Russia series gives a good opportunity to receive soon an extensive current information of the species in its stronghold.

    Currently I find the downlisting of the greater spotted eagle unacceptable.
    Ülo Väli, Estonia

    Boris Barov has provided the following rough translation from the new Ukraine Red List of Animals (February 2010):
    Population numbers and reasons for trend

    “In 1997 the breeding population in the country was estimated at 40-60 pairs. By 2004 it was estimated at 20-30 pairs. This estimate was based on the inquiry method with following surveying of the regions where presence of the species was indicated. The current (2009) estimate for this species is 10-20 pairs. … The main reasons for this negative trend are attributed to the reduction of suitable habitat – flooded forests, due to hydro technical measures, irrigation and water abstraction often followed by intensification of forest exploitation in these forests. Illegal shooting is also considered a threat”.
    The author of the account is: S.V. Domashevskiy

    Igor Karyakin has provided the following clarifications to his contribution of 24 Jan (February 2010):

    My estimation of the Greater Spotted Eagle number at 4000-4500 pairs refers to the whole of Russia. Some specialists consider it as too high, because I project the number of GSE inhabiting Konda and Vasyugan Region not less than in the south of Western Siberia (such assumption increases the whole number twice, up to 4000-4500 pairs); but some other people suppose that I underestimated the number, because we regularly find new perennial nests of eagles even in territories that we have been surveying for several years (which means that the probability of missing eagles’ nests is significant).

    Comprehensive estimations of number are done only for the Volga-Ural region and for the south of Western Siberia where 400-500 and 1000-1300 pairs accordingly are projected to breed – these are the largest known populations of the species in the country. GSE is very rare in Eastern Siberia. And its number in Far East is possibly little, because there are no publications about discoveries of nests of the species for last 10 years.

    All current information about the GSE in the territory of the former USSR was collected and published in Proceedings of the Conference on birds of prey in 2008.
    Only titles of articles are translated in English.

    According my surveys during last 10 years, GSE in Russia is rather successful and the decreasing of its number seems to be unlikely. The Imperial Eagle and especially the Steppe Eagle are in the more threatened situation. The Steppe Eagle has catastrophically decreased in number for last 10 years, more than in 10 times in some territories, and has become extinct in 3 regions.

    Kerem Ali Boyla has provided the following information from Turkey (February 2010):

    There has been more information about the species in Turkey in the last time. There are two reasons.
    1. There are more bridwatcher away from big cities.
    2. There is a worldbirds database (Kuþbank) running successfully in Turkey.

    In the past the records of the species were restricted to few wetlands. today there are records from almost every middle or large wetlands.

    I filtered the records from Kuþbank between 2006 and 2010 between December and February:

    Meriç Deltasý Min 2(well observed)
    Kavak Deltasý Min 1
    Gediz Deltasý Min 2
    Bodrum Tuzla Max 1(well observed)
    Kýrklareli Ýðneada Min 1
    Manyas Kuþ Max 1
    Terkos Gölü (well observed) Min 3
    Büyükçekmece Max 1 (well observed)
    Kocaçay Deltasý Max 1
    Dalyan Delta MÝn 1
    Iþýklý Gölü Max 1
    Nallýhan Max 1
    Filyos Deltasý 1
    Sinop Sarýkum Min 2

    In summary, on every middle or large wetland in Western parts of the countrr there are 1-5 individuals wintering on each of the approx. 20 sites. This can sum up to min. 50-100 birds. There are very few wintering records from the Black Sea, Eastern Turkey, Southeastern Turkey (where wetlands are few) and Central Turkey. However the main population is concentrated in two sites.

    Göksu Deltasý Min 20 Max 40
    Seyhan and Ceyhan Del. Est min 10

    This may sum op to 50-100 birds in S Turkey.

    In total there may be a minimum of 100-200 wintering in Turkey.

    I don’t know why there were very few reports in the past. Then the areas were more extensive and access to many parts of a wetland was more difficult. THus decreasing encountering the species. This may relate to the increasing number of birds wintering in Turkey which I can support… However the increase in birders can surely also contribute to this increase. Still, I believe there there is an increasing number of birds in Turkey wintering in Turkey.

    On the passage the birds are widely seen in different parts. The passage in Istanbul and Belen (Antakya) is pretty regular, however there are records from random areas near Ankara, Ýzmir, Malatya, Erzurum and Artvin.

    Dr. Vladimir N. Melnikov (Ivanovo State University) has made the following contribution (March 2010):

    Total number of Great Spotted Eagle in Europe part of Russia is estimated in 800 nesting pair. The kind is distributed on territory very non-uniformly. Small nested groupings are formed in wide water meadow the flat rivers, separate steams nest on continental low-lying wood bogs. This kind in region extremely stenotopic – occupies respectfully alder boggy woods, nests has on a black alder. In a wide zone of sympatry hybridizes with Lesser Spotted Eagle. On monitoring platforms (Juravlinaja rodina and Klyazminsky zakaznik) in 2009 number of a kind was considerably reduced in comparison with previous years. It is recommended in Red List IUCN to keep the status Vulnerable (VU).

    Virag has made the following comment from India (March 2010):

    As a part of our project on “Ecological study of Chhari Dhandh- A wetland in Greater Rann of Kachchh (Gujarat, India), we carry out frequent field visits to the area. During the last visit November-2009 we sighted about 12-13 Greater Spotted eagles roosting on dried mud flats around this wetland area. The species is regularly seen here in this part of Kachchh (Gujarat) (India) during winters.

  2. Nicky Petkov says:

    In Bulgaria the species is wintering and migrating species. In winter it is scarce rarity with permanent wintering of single individuals only around Shabla and Durankulak lakes IBAs. In recent years observations of soaring birds migration have increased dramatically in locations and intensity and even with this intensity only tens of birds in total are registered with no more than 2-3 birds seen at different observation points. This makes me think either the species predominantly migrates along the eastern part of the Black Sea and in Asia or the birds from European Russia go somewhere else. There is some overlap of the breeding range of the LSE and GSE but numbers differ to the sky! Thousands of LSE and some tens of GSE. It would be good to know some information from Georgia on migration numbers. However some data suggest the GSE to be much scarce in numbers than Steppe Eagle 74/75 GSEs observed at Batumi raptor observation against 169/162 Steppe Eagles for 2008 and 2009 autumn observations (
    For sure there some small numbers wintering in the Danube Delta in Romania (I’ve seen up to 8-10 birds there) some wintering individuals in the big river deltas in Greek part of Trace and in Kirkini lake, regular but not numerous.
    Thus for me it is tricky to suggest down-listing of the GSE based on just estimates of possible population and presumptions. Assuming it breeds in huge numbers in Siberia and being hard to account for and find in these areas is not a sound basis for down-listing for me when there is evidence of shrinking distribution and numbers in the European range of the species.

  3. In Belarus, in 2010 75 breeding sites outside large natural protected wetlands of GSE known from 2000 have been checked in frames of an APB conservation project. This corresponds to c. 40-50% of the breeding population. The results show a 33% decline over a decade.
    The research focused in the first place on breeding sites requiring protection, as the target of the work was to ensure full protection of GSE in Belarus.
    The total population estimate for Belarus needs correction. For which the situation with GSE at large natural wetlands need to be checked.
    If the situation with GSE at large intact wetlands is stable, than the decline observed is due to anthropogenic activities. However, if the species declines also at large intact wetlands, then it will mean overall decline of GSE population due to other factors.

  4. Small numbers overwintering on Italian wetlands do not suggest a decline in the last 20 years

  5. Polish population of Greater Spotted Eagle counts about 15 pairs breeding in the Biebrza Wetlands’ area. However, about one-third of the pairs in the Biebrza Wetlands are mixed: Greater Spotted Eagle with Lesser Spotted Eagle. Apart from the Biebrza Wetlands population, there was recorded only one more breeding attempt – a mixed pair (Greater Spotted Eagle and Lesser Spotted Eagle) in south-eastern Poland, near the east border. The number of pairs of Greater Spotted Eagle in Poland is quite stable, but the share of mixed pairs seems to be rising. Hybridization between the two species is perhaps increasingly important threat for the Greater Spotted Eagle’s population in the westernmost part of its geographical range.

    According to statements of researchers dealing with this species in Europe, most of the local populations in European range of Greater Spotted Eagle are decreasing. The estimations of numbers of birds in Asian part of the species’ range should be treated with caution, having in mind methodological difficulties related to caring a census of this species and a vast area to be studied. Additionally, the Greater Spotted Eagle during its whole yearly life cycles is strongly related to wetlands, which are considered one of the most threatened habitats in the world (e.g. according to the Ramsar Database 84% of Ramsar listed wetlands had been effected by ecological change by 1999). Therefore, Eagle Conservation Committee and its partners (Society Polish Birds and the Biebrza National Park) executing together a LIFE Project targeted at Greater Spotted Eagle conservation, vote against down-listing GSE in IUCN criterion. Thus, we postulate to maintain current ‘Vulnerable’ conservation status of the Greater Spotted Eagle.

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