(1777) Haliaetus albicillus.
THE WHITE-TAILED SEA-EAGLE.
Falco albicilla Linn.,Syst. Nat., 10th ed. i, p. 89 (1758) (Sweden). Haliaetus albicillus. Blanf. & Oates, iii, p. 369.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. Whole head, neck and upper breast pale fulvous-brown or whity-brown, the bases darker and showing through and the shafts black; remainder of upper parts dark brown ; wing-coverts brown with pale edges, these covering almost the whole visible portions of the inner lesser coverts and decreasing in extent outwardly, often disappearing entirely on the outermost and on the primary coverts; quills blackish-brown ; the innermost secondaries edged with whitish like the scapulars and interscapulars; tail white generally more or less mottled with brown at the base; lower parts brown, the feathers of the lower breast with a good deal of pale edging or mottling.
Colours of soft parts. Iris yellow, brown in the young; bill and cere yellow, more brown in young birds and quite blackish-brown in the youngest; feet yellow. The feathers of the hind-neck and breast are long and lanceolate but do not form a ruff as in leucoryphus.
Measurements. wing 593 to 632 mm.; tail 285 to 325 mm.; tarsus about 85 mm.; culmen about 61 mm., wing 640 to 686 mm.; tail 318 to 352 mm.; culmen about 65 mm.
Young birds are brown, varying much in depth of colour; the bases of the feathers are pale fulvous or whitish and show through more or less everywhere but especially on the lower parts; tail white more or less mottled and edged with brown, this colour predominating in the youngest birds; the wing-coverts are mostly rufous-fulvous with dark brown tips and the lower parts often look as if fulvous broadly streaked with dark brown.
Distribution. All Europe and Northern Asia, Greenland, etc. A Winter visitor to India, extending to the Punjab, North-West Provinces and Sind. It breeds as far East and South as Mesopotamia and Persia.
Nidification. In Northern Europe the White-tailed Sea-Eagle breeds in April, sometimes in the end of March or early May. In South Europe it breeds in February and in Mesopotamia, North and Western Persia in January and February. The nest is a huge affair ©f sticks, branches and other rubbish, lined with gra^s, wool, etc. In North Europe it is nearly always placed on cliffs but elsewhere often in trees, sometimes on the ground and sometimes on ledges on clay banks of rivers. The eggs number one to three and are pure white, very rarely showing any pigmentation, though often much stained. One hundred " eggs average 73.9 x 57.8 mm.: maxima 84.4 X 60.7 and 82.0 x 63.5 mm.; minima 66.0 x 54.0 and 68.0 x 53.0 mm. (Witherby).
Habits. This grand Eagle, magnificent as it is in its leisurely soaring flight is not nearly so fine a bird when at rest, sitting for hours on some rocky headland or high tree, hunched up and motionless until once more hunger urges it to action. It feeds largely on fish but also eats carrion and will kill and devour duck and sea-birds of all sorts and also hares, rabbits, etc. In Mesopotamia and Persia it keeps to the larger rivers, lagoons and to the sea-coast and is in some parts quite a common bird. It has not much pluck in spite of its size and power, and Buxton records a pair of Kites appropriating a completed nest of the Sea-Eagles without protest from them. The call is described by Wither by as " a querulous chatter, insignificant for so large a bird."