This is the last in this series of raptor photos from the Pyrenees: Bonelli’s Eagle taken at another feeding station managed by Birding in Spain. Like last week’s Northern Goshawk feral pigeons from a local council culling programme are used to attract the eagles. It’s brown and white plumage reminded me rather of the similarly sized Osprey particular that of the male, first photo, which is paler than the female. In size it has a length of up to 73cm/28in, a wingspan to 180cm/71in and weights up to 2.4kg/5.3lbs. That makes it much smaller than most of the other Aquila eagles, such as the Golden and Wedge-tailed but larger than the Little Eagle of Australia.
There the resemblance to ospreys ends, as Bonelli’s Eagle is found in hilly or mountainous country in warm regions and eats mammals and birds – in Spain it eats mainly rabbits and partridges. The second photo shows the view from the hide. The stone wall on the left is where the food is tied in place, as is done with the goshawks to prevent them from carrying the food away. The bird arrived quite promptly after set up: you can see in the first photo that the reflection of the sun in its eye is just above the horizon.
The third photo is another one of the male with the remains of a pigeon. On the back just below the neck a white spot is visible – this is a diagnostic feature of adult Bonelli’s Eagles and fairly conspicuous in flight though the birds arrived and departed so quickly from the rocky ridge in front of the hide that I didn’t get any decent flight shots.
They were fast eaters too. The fourth photo was taken 25 minutes after the third: very little of the pigeon remains and the crop of the bird is quite full. The adult goshawk also took about half an hour to demolish a pigeon, but the immature goshawk took the best part of two hours and remained long after the adult had left. Despatching prey at speed would appear to be a skill that takes raptors a bit of practice. Both these photos show the feathered legs or ‘boots’, characteristic of ‘true’ eagles. They’re not exclusive to eagles though. The goshawks had impressive trousers too as do some falcons such as the Brown Falcon of Australia.
Once fed, the male seemed more aware of what was going on around it and in the fifth photo is peering at the hide, presumably in response to the sound of the camera shutter.
Meanwhile, the female, sixth and seventh photos, was getting stuck into the other pigeon. She was a fine-looking bird too, larger than the male, with hazel eyes and identifiable by much stronger streaks on the breast. The female had much darker trousers, seventh photo, but I don’t know whether that’s generally the case or peculiar to this bird.
Bonelli’s Eagle is widely but sparsely distributed through southern Europe, northern Africa, parts of the Middle East, South and Southeastern Asia as far east as Timor. The European population is about 900 pairs, of which about 700 are in Spain. They are sedentary, keeping to their large home ranges throughout the year. Satellite tracking in Spain has shown an average home range of 200sq km/77sq miles with a core range of about 45sq km/17 sq miles.
The generic name ‘fasciata’ comes from the Latin fascia meaning stripe, band or sash. It’s usually used in birds to refer to horizontal bands or barring but maybe Veillot, the taxonomist responsible, was referring to the barring on the ‘trousers’ rather than the streaks on the breast. Veillot, Jean Pierre that is, was an important French avian taxonomist, 1748-1831, who extended the three-level Linnaean classification of order-genus-species into order-tribe-family-genus-species in his Analyse d’une nouvelle Ornithologie Elémentaire (1816). Franco Andrea Bonelli was, unsurprisingly, an Italian ornithologist 1784-1830 and discovered both this eagle and Bonelli’s Warbler in 1815. He worked at the Natural History Museum in Paris 1810-11 before returning to Italy to take up the position of Professor of Zoology at the University of Turin. Interestingly, he published his main works in French.
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They are passed away as the swift ships: as the eagle that hasteth to the prey. (Job 9:26 KJV)
Their horses also are swifter than the leopards, and are more fierce than the evening wolves: and their horsemen shall spread themselves, and their horsemen shall come from far; they shall fly as the eagle that hasteth to eat. (Habakkuk 1:8 KJV)
What an amazing set of photos of this magnificent Eagle. Thanks again, Ian, for sharing these fantastic glimpses of the Bonelli’s Eagle. Pretty fast eaters, it appears.
This Eagle is a member of the Accipitridae – Kites, Hawks and Eagles Family and a Bird of the Bible also. Eagles are mentioned over thirty times in the Bible, plus they are included in the various “birds of prey” verses.