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If you're interested to learn more about different species of birds like eagles, you'll love to know more about the lesser fish eagle that resides in the Indian subcontinent along with in various south-east Asian countries. This gray eagle species is known for living in forest fringes with water bodies like rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams. The eagle is known for being keen on preying on fish and it's quite adept at catching fish from fast-flowing streams thanks to its curved talons. You can easily recognize the eagle by its gray feathers which cover its head, wings, and tails. The breast area features deep brown-colored feathers which make the bird look even more majestic. The thigh and belly regions are white.
Unfortunately, the population of this species has been declining, and IUCN has classified it as a Near Threatened bird. This is mainly due to the interference of humans in its natural habitat which has led to the destruction of areas that were usually frequented by lesser fish eagles.
The lesser fish eagle is one of the birds of prey belonging to the family Accipitridae. Even the martial eagle is part of the same family.
Like all other bird species, the lesser fish eagle belongs to the class Aves.
As per the stats of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the total global population of this species is around 10,000-50,000 mature individuals. Because of the small population, this bird has been classified as Near Threatened. It also seems like their population is decreasing.
The lesser fish eagle is typically found in the Indian subcontinent, often inhabiting the foothills of the Himalayas. However, the bird is also seen in different parts of south-east Asia. For instance, the subspecies Haliaeetus humilis humilis is especially found in Malaysia, Borneo, Sumatra, and Sulawesi. While the subspecies Haliaeetus humilis plumbeus is native to Kashmir and southeast India and is also found in Burma, Nepal, and parts of China.
The lesser fish eagle inhabits forest-fringed water bodies like rivers, lakes, and wetlands. Furthermore, you can find the population of this species near hill streams with a rapid flow. The average altitude at which the bird dwells is around 7,874 ft (2,400 m), but in Nepal, some lesser fish eagles have been spotted in even higher altitudes at a height of about 13,123 ft (4,000 m).
Not much is known about the living behavior of this population. However, given that eagles are a solitary species, we can assume that lesser fish eagles only come together in groups or pairs during the breeding season.
We don't know about the exact lifespan of this species, but in general, fish eagles live for around 13-17 years in the wild.
Lesser fish eagles breed between the months of March and August in North India and Nepal. But, in some regions like Burma, the birds may reproduce in the winter months of November through to April. The female lays about two to four eggs per clutch after making a nest made of green leaves and tree branches on top of a tall tree close to a water body.
According to the BirdLife International and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, the H. humilis or lesser fish eagle is currently placed under the classification of Near Threatened. The population is mainly declining due to continued human disturbance in its natural habitat.
These medium-sized eagles are quite plain-looking, and it's covered in gray-brown ad white plumage. Often, there is confusion between lesser fish eagle vs gray-headed fish eagle, but the difference lies in the brown chest feathers of the former species. The brown or maroon feathers are mostly limited to the chest area, while its small head is full of gray feathers. The lesser fish eagle juvenile looks paler compared to the adults. And, while in flight, you can see the white feathers present in the lower belly and thighs. The birds have brown eyes and featherless legs along with broad and blunt wings. They have short tails and curved talons to catch their prey. Even though the females and males look alike, the females are usually larger than the male.
This bird may not be as cute as the lanner falcon, but it surely looks majestic, especially due to its large wingspan.
The eagle population communicates with the aid of different types of calls including the hak-hak and ow sounds. During the mating season, the pairs take part in a unison song which is often raucous and loud. However, females are generally more vocal and louder than males during the mating season. These birds are also known to vocalize while claiming their territories.
The average size of these birds is around 19.6-27.5 in (50-70 cm). It's considered as one of the smaller members of the Haliaeetus genus. Compared to it, the tawny eagle measures around 24-28 in (61-71.12 cm).
We don't really know about the exact speed of this species, but eagles generally soar at a speed of 28-32 mph (45-51.5 kph). But, the bird's speed can drastically increase when it has to catch prey.
The average lesser fish eagle weight is around 27.5-28.2 oz (780-800 g).
There are no separate names for male and female eagles.
A baby lesser fish eagle eaglets.
These eagles mainly sustain fish caught from various water bodies like ponds, lakes, and streams. This species is known for hunting skills as it perches on a high tree or a rock to observe the prey before flying over the water body to catch the fish. These birds have curved sharp talons and spicules on the toes that help to hold on to the slippery body of a fish.
Even though the lesser fish eagle population stays away from the humans, when irritated, these birds can turn aggressive and attack humans causing serious injuries.
No, this is a wild bird that should never be kept as a pet.
Formerly, the scientific name of the lesser eagle was Ichthyophaga humilis.
The H. humilis can have a wingspan of up to 47 in (1.2 m) which is double the size of its body.
There are mainly seven species of the fish eagle, and the lesser fish eagle is one variant. Others include the Gray-headed fish eagle, Steller's sea eagle, African fish eagle, Madagascar fish eagle, Sanford's fish eagle, and Pallas's fish eagle.
This bird is called the lesser fish eagle as it's smaller than the gray-headed fish eagle, which also belongs to the family Accipitridae. And, a fish eagle is named so because of its tendency to primarily feed on fish.
You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our free printable lesser fish eagle coloring pages.
*The first image is by Subramanya CK.
*The second image is by Shrikant rao.
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