Booted Eagle, Aquila pennata
Booted Eagle, Spain, May 2009, © Markus Jais
English: Booted Eagle
Scientific: Aquila pennata, Hieraaetus pennatus
Spanish: Águila calzada
French: Aigle botté
Taxonomy and Subspecies
The Booted Eagle was placed in the Genus Hieraaetus but is now placed in the Genus Aquila by many sources incl. [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].
There are 3 recognised subspecies. Only A.p. pennata occurs in Europe.
Length: 42-50 cm
Wingspan: 113-134 cm
Weight: Male 635-770 g, Female 840-1,146g
Smallest eagle in Europe.
12 years in captivity. [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]
Booted Eagles prefer forest with open areas like clearances. Can also be found in open areas like desserts or grassland or even on sea cliffs.
In France, Booted Eagles have been observed hunting close to villages and even in cities [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].
Breeds in southern and eastern Europa including Portugal, Spain, France, and from the Balkan, Turkey, Hungary, and eastern Poland eastwards over northern Iraq, Iran and east to the Himalaya and north to Mongolia and Russia (Transbaikalia). Also breeds in northern India. A separate breeding population also exists in South Africa.
Winter distribution on the Indian subcontinent and in Africa south of the Africa (avoiding the rain forests in West Africa).
In Europe, most Booted Eagles are migratory. Only few spent the winter in southern Europe, for example in southern France or Spain.
Most Booted Eagles leave Europe in the 2nd half of September and early October. They return between the end of February and the beginning of April [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]. The young leave the breeding area before their parents.
Breeding and Reproduction
It is not yet clear at what age Booted Eagles are first capable of breeding [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].
During courtship, very fast and amazing stoops can be seen.
Nests are normally built on trees, rarely on cliffs. Often, nests of other species like raptors or crows are used [GRIN 2009].
Normally 2 eggs are laid (sometimes only 1 egg or up to 3). Incubation time is about 36-40 days and the young stay in the nest for another 50-55 days.
Like other raptors, after fledging, the young are dependent on their parents. For the Booted Eagles, this period is rather short with only about two weeks [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].
Food and hunting
The Booted Eagle has a broad diet. From insects up to medium sized birds and mammals, everything is taken. Birds are normally the most important food source [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]. In Spain, large lizards, young rabbits and Red-legged Partridge.
Birds are often taken on the ground. Prey species include larks, pipits, pigeons, starling or thrushes. The Booted Eagle is capable of spectacular stoops.
[BirdLife International 2004] estimates the European population to be between 4,400 and 8,900 pairs. The largest population lives in Spain for which [BirdLife International 2004] gives a range of 2,000 – 4,000 birds. In [Mebs & Schmidgt 2006], a more specific number of between 2,905 and 3,378 pairs is given. Other countries with larger populations are Russia (800 – 1,500) and France (380 – 650) [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]. Sometimes, the species breeds outside it’s normal range. In the 1990s, a pair nests in eastern Germany, but this has not lead to a permanent population.
The population in Spain has increased in some areas. [Mebs & Schmidt 2006] mention a populatioin increase in the Doñana Nationalpark in Spain from only 6 at the beginning of the 1980s to about 150 pairs in the year 2000.
Loss of habitat (incl. old forests where the eagles nest and also hunt) is a concern for the species in south-eastern Europe [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].
Illegal persecution, disturbance and loss of prey is mentioned in [Ferguson & Christie 2001].
Important habitat must be protected. Disturbance during the breeding season (recreational activities and forestry work), should be avoided. Illegal hunting must be stopped. A detailed monitoring of the breeding pairs and their success could give more detailed information about population development. Prey species must also be protected.
Least Concern (LC)
Status Global Raptor Information Network
Global Raptor Information Network. 2009. Species account: Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 18 Oct. 2009
[Mebs & Schmidt 2006] Mebs, Theodor & Schmidt, Daniel (2006). Die Greifvögel Europas, Nordafrikas und Vorderasiens. Kosmos Verlag.