Bonelli's eagle

Bonelli's eagle
Perched on a tree near a wetland in Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Tiger Reserve
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Accipitriformes
Family: Accipitridae
Genus: Aquila
Species: A. fasciata
Binomial name
Aquila fasciata
(Vieillot, 1822)
  • Hieraaetus fasciatus
  • Aquila fasciatus
Bonelli's Eagle Male and Female Pair

The Bonelli's eagle (Aquila fasciata) is a large bird of prey. Like all eagles, it belongs to the family Accipitridae.

It breeds in southern Europe, Africa both north and south of the Sahara Desert and across the Middle East and South Asia to Indonesia. It is usually a resident breeder.[1]

Artwork from a 19th-century German Natural History book
Egg, Collection Museum Wiesbaden

The Bonelli's eagle is found in hilly or mountainous habitats, with rocky walls or crags and open to wooded land, in arid to semi-moist climate, from sea level to 1500 m.[1]

Recent DNA research resulted in this species being moved to the genus Aquila from Hieraaetus.[2]

The common name of the bird commemorates the Italian ornithologist and collector Franco Andrea Bonelli.[3]


This is a medium to great sized eagle at 55–65 cm (22–26 in) in length, with a wingspan of about 150 cm (59 in). The upperparts of the adult are dark brown with a white patch between the wings. From below, the body is white with dark stripes, and the wings are blackish. The long tail is grey on top and white below and has a single broad black terminal band. The feet and eyes are yellow. Immature birds have deep buff underparts and underwing coverts, and have fine barring on the tail without the terminal band.[4]

The Bonelli's eagle is usually silent except near the nest.[4]

Bonelli's eagle in flight
Bonelli's eagle feeding its eaglet with a partridge.
Juvenile in Kawal Wildlife Sanctuary, India.
Juvenile Bonelli's eagle in flight,in rural Sangli district

Behaviour and ecology


Bonelli's eagle breeds on crags or large trees, in nests up to 2 m in diameter built up with wood sticks, re-used for many years. The breeding season, in the western part of its range, is from January to July.[1]


Bonelli's eagle usually feeds on small to medium-sized birds, but sometimes also on mammals, reptiles, insects and carrion.[1] It usually hunts from cover by a quick dash from inside a tree, but it will also catch prey by quartering hill slopes like other eagles, or make a stoop from a soaring position. Most prey is taken on the ground.

This eagle takes large prey items, usually mammals or birds. Mammals up to the size of a hare are regularly taken, and birds up to guineafowl size.

Conservation and rehabilitation

Bonelli's eagles will foster orphaned chicks of the same species in an empty nest, but only if egg or chick loss has happened a few hours earlier. Also they will foster chicks during the post-fledging dependence period, and this conservation strategy may be applicable to other raptor species provided that siblicide is not common in the host species.[5]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 BirdLife International (2015). "Aquila fasciata". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  2. Helbig, A.J.; Kocum, A.; Seibold, I.; Braun, M.J. (2005). "A multi-gene phylogeny of aquiline eagles (Aves: Accipitriformes) reveals extensive paraphyly at the genus level" (PDF). Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution. 35 (1): 147–164. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2004.10.003.
  3. Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael (2003). Whose Bird? Men and Women Commemorated in the Common Names of Birds. London: Christopher Helm. p. 59. ISBN 978-0713666472.
  4. 1 2 Svensson, Lars (2009). Guida degli uccelli d'Europa, Nord Africa e vicino oriente (in Italian). Ricca Editore. p. 100. ISBN 9788866940005.
  5. Pande, Satish; Pawshe, Amit; Pednekar, Banda; Mahabal, Anil; Yosef, Reuven (2004). "How long is too long? A case of fostering nestling Bonelli's Eagles (Hieraaetus fasciatus)". Journal of Raptor Research. The Raptor Research Foundation, Inc. 38 (4): 381–382.
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