Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Haliaeetus leucogaster (Gmelin, 1788)

Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum/Division:Chordata
Class:Aves
Order:Accipitriformes
Family:Accipitridae
Genus:Haliaeetus
Species:H. leucogaster
Common Names:White-bellied Fish Eagle, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Lang Laut, Helang Siput
Status:Common resident

Description

One of Singapore's largest and most magnificent raptors.

Read more about the Accipitriformes order.
Read more about the Accipitridae family.

Localities

This raptor is found throughout Singapore and its offshore islands.

Locality Map

General Biology

Often found near the coasts, at sea, at inland reservoirs and forested areas. This large raptor soars with the wings held in a 'V' shape, making shallow glides over the water and snatching the prey close to the surface. It has a characteristic honking call or yelping cry, usually heard at dawn or dusk.

They regularly indulge in spectacular aerial displays, sometimes locking talons and making aerial somersaults. These may simply be friendly activities, courtship displays or even acts of aggression. A juvenile was documented being mobbed by a group of Javan Mynas (Acridotheres fuscus) while an adult preching on a TV antenna was mobbed by six crows. The raptor was only slightly flustered but remained where it was for about 20 minutes after which the crows flew off.

A grove of trees in Lim Chu Kang was identified as the communial roost of more than six, if not more of these raptors in June 2012. They arrived in the late evening and leave early the next morning.

There was at least a case of this raptor being trapped by poachers to be subsequently released when injured. Fortunately it was found in a bad state, rescued and rehabilitated. Another casualty to the raptor is injury caused by carelessly discarded fishing line. In June 2014 a juvenile was found dead, strangled by a discarded fishing net.

Diet

Catches fish, sea snakes, terrapins, frogs, rats and fruit bats.

Its hunting technique is to remain still for long periods on a high perch until it locates a potential prey. Then it lunges down to grab it with its talons and brings it back to its perch to be eaten.

A juvenile attempted to raid the nests of the Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) but failed when the defenders spread their wings and pointed their long sharp bills, and at the same time screaming loudly at the sea-eagle.

Life Cycle

The nest is a massive pile of sticks and can sometimes be seen on the branches of big trees in the forest or on telecommunications towers. The nest is recycled year after year with new sticks added, thus growing in size with time.

Usually two eggs are laid. Incubation takes about 40 days, the chicks fledging in 65-70 days (Thiollay, 1994).

A video clip of the adult feeding two chicks just before thet latter were about to fledge can be viewed HERE.

References

Thiollay, J. M., 1994. Family Accipitridae (Hawks and Eagles). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Sargatal, J. eds. Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 2. New world vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Editions, Barcelona. Pp. 52-205.

Wang, L. K. 2011. Accipiters. Pp. 218–219. In: Ng, P. K. L., R. T. Corlett & H. T. W. Tan (editors). Singapore Biodiversity. An Encyclopedia of the Natural Environment and Sustainable Development. Editions Didier Millet, Singapore. 552 pp.

Wang, L. K. & C. J. Hails, 2007. An annotated checklist of the birds of Singapore. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, Supplement 15: 1–179.

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