The Indian spotted eagle (Clanga hastata) is a large bird of prey in the Accipitridae family. Native to parts of South Asia, the Indian spotted eagle is a vulnerable species whose population figures are slowly declining.
As a result of this, information about the species is somewhat limited, despite how widely known the eagle is.
It is therefore important that we take the time to educate ourselves on the magnificent Indian spotted eagle to understand why the species is declining gradually in the wild, and what we can do to combat this decline.
Here is the ultimate guide to the Indian spotted eagle!
The Indian spotted eagle sizes up at 23” in length with a wingspan of 1.5 meters, classifying the species as a large bird of prey.
These birds exhibit everything you would expect from an eagle – the piercing eyes, the permanently focussed expression, the sharp talons, the pointed beak, and the broad head shape.
Interestingly, this species has the widest mouth out of all the spotted eagle species.
The Indian spotted eagle possesses a predominantly earthy brown coloring all over, with dark brown irises that make their eyes stand out from their plumage.
The reason this species is named a “spotted eagle” is because of their distinctive white spots dotted irregularly over the outer parts of their wings, although this isn’t prevalent in all the eagles.
Some Indian spotted eagles only exhibit the occasional white marking, making each eagle unique to the next.
The only colorful parts of the Indian spotted eagle are its distinctive bright yellow mouth (followed by a black hooked and very sharp beak) and yellow legs, complete with black talons.
Male vs Female
Unfortunately, there is little information to suggest the key physical differences between a male and female Indian spotted eagle.
If we look at most eagle species, however, it is assumed that the Indian spotted eagle is sexually monomorphic, which means that the only real difference between the sexes is that the female is generally larger than the male.
Are They Aggressive?
The Indian spotted eagle isn’t likely to reside near human settlements, though some are often found in urban parks. This species isn’t a threat to humans in terms of aggression, but it’s rare for a human to get close enough to this eagle to see how aggressive it is.
For its prey, it’s another story. The Indian spotted eagle is a master at hunting, meaning it’s very rare for prey to get away from the clutches of their deadly talons.
These birds tend to keep themselves to themselves, and it’s rare for them to get into a fight with a fellow eagle.
What Adaptations Do They Have?
The main adaptations of the Indian spotted eagle are its talons and beak, both of which look fairly similar in color and shape.
Hooked, black, and incredibly sharp, these adaptations help to make the Indian spotted eagle the ultimate predator.
Some could argue that the earthy-toned feathers help to blend these eagles into their surroundings, making them far more elusive to the unsuspecting prey below.
Breeding / Reproduction Behavior
Unfortunately, there is little information about the courting and mating rituals of the Indian spotted eagle.
However, it is assumed that the male performs a series of aerial displays above the female, who then submits to the male in the nest they built together.
This display will include “wing-winnowing”, wherein the wings are pointed at a sharp ‘V’ angle, and “heart dives”, where the wings are pulled back into a romantic “heart” shape.
The male and female are likely to make their distinctive calls to one another during this ritual.
Once successful, the female will generally lay 1-2 eggs. The male and female will take turns during the incubation period that lasts 31 days, with the female mostly incubating during the day.
The male will hunt for food during this time. Once hatched, the nestling period can take up to 71 days before the fledgling stage. The female will stay with her eaglets until the seventh week, when she takes over from the male to hunt for food.
The breeding season is from March to May. The Indian spotted eagle is a monogamous bird, meaning it will only mate for life with one partner.
Their Calls / Sounds
The call of an Indian spotted eagle is a standard one for an eagle species – it’s generally a high-pitched, shrill cackle.
What Do They Eat? (Diet)
Like most birds of prey, the Indian spotted eagle hunts for and eats an array of animals, including small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, small birds, insects, and even fish (though rare).
Their favorite type of food is small mammals like rodents that they can capture from the ground.
Where Do They Live? (Habitat)
The Indian spotted eagle, as the name suggests, is a South Asian bird native to India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Myanmar. They are often found drifting over to Pakistan.
This species prefers open forests and woodland areas, wetlands, marshes, grasslands, and on the rare occasion, even urban parks.
This species is also found in breeding facilities and protected areas in Nepal to prevent the ever-declining population figure in the wild.
What Are Their Nesting Habits?
The Indian spotted eagle mostly builds its nest on the fork of a tall tree. These nests are circular and sturdy, and made of sticks, twigs, and leaves.
The nest is mostly built by the female, with the male occasionally bringing up sticks. The male, during this time, is more likely to spend his time hunting for food.
How Long Do They Live? (Lifespan)
There is little information to suggest the lifespan of the Indian spotted eagle, though it is assumed that in the wild they can live between 12-15 years. In captivity, this lifespan can stretch to 20 years.
What Predators Do They Have?
As adults, the Indian spotted eagle isn’t prey to other animals. These birds of prey are some of nature’s best hunters, so it’s very rare for them to have an animal predator.
As juveniles and eaglets, these birds have a few predators. Reptiles like snakes and lizards are likely to crawl up the trees to the nest to feed on the eggs if they are unhatched, but they will have to sneak past the protective eye of the mother eagle.
If the eaglet falls from the nest, then the height from the tree is a huge threat to their lives. Eagles and other birds of prey are also known for taking juveniles from the nests of other birds for food, making adult Indian spotted eagles another predator.
The main predator for the Indian spotted eagle is, unfortunately, humanity. Their declining population figures in the wild is mostly due to habitat destruction and climate change, making humans possibly the worst predator of all.
What Are Their Feathers Like?
The feathers of an Indian spotted eagle are varying shades of earthy-toned browns.
These eagles are notorious for their inconsistent feather patterns, as while most of this species possess the namesake pale and white spots over their plumage, not every eagle of this species has these spots.
Instead, each feather looks different to the next, all with inconsistent and irregular markings, making each eagle unique.
When in flight, the feathers on the wings are all uniformed and darker than the feathers on the body of the eagle. Their tail feathers are also surprisingly short compared to the tails of other eagle species.
What Does Their Poop Look Like?
The poop of an Indian spotted eagle is mostly brown or black with a liquid-like consistency. It’s common for the poop to have white parts from the uric acid that cleans the bacteria from prey.
Do They Migrate?
The Indian spotted eagle is a sedentary bird, meaning it does not migrate. These birds are highly territorial and are most likely to stay in the area they were born in, but they will fly elsewhere to look for food.
They will also fly as a family (the male and female) to find a suitable home for their nest if their original home has been destroyed by deforestation.
According to the IUCN Red List, the conservation status of the Indian spotted eagle is Vulnerable. This is mostly due to deforestation, which contributes to the destruction of their habitats.
As these birds aren’t migratory, they won’t want to leave their area, which leads to a decline in population. This deforestation is related to agriculture habitats, human settlements, and general disturbance.
The Indian spotted eagle’s closest relatives are the lesser spotted eagle and the greater spotted eagle.
The Indian spotted eagle has the widest mouth out of all the spotted eagle species.
The Indian spotted eagle can be found even in Cambodia due to the country’s laws on protected areas and breeding facilities.
Other names for this species include the long-legged eagle and the small Indian spotted eagle.
The Indian spotted eagle was once considered a subspecies of the lesser spotted eagle, until research proved the distinct differences in DNA, behavior, habitat, and ecological data.