Booted Eagle

(Aquila pennata)

While the Booted Eagle is the smallest Eagle species in Europe, it is a fierce hunter that stoops down on its prey from great heights similar to a Peregrine Falcon.

Photo of Booted Eagle in flight
Booted Eagle in flight

As a strictly migratory species, Booted Eagles can be observed in great numbers every year as they cross the Mediterranean sea at the narrowest straits, such as Gibraltar and Bosporus.

The main food source of these raptors are other birds, but overall the Booted Eagle has a very broad diet ranging from insects to lizards and small mammals. 

Booted Eagle facts

As the smallest Eagle species in Europe, the Booted Eagle looks more like a buzzard than an eagle, but its small size belies the fact that it is a formidable hunter that can take down much larger prey than buzzards are capable of hunting.

Booted Eagle size

The Booted Eagle is the smallest Eagle in Europe, which explains its German name “Zwergadler”, which translates to “Pygmy Eagle”.

  • Wingspan: 112-135 cm
  • Length: 43-50 cm
  • Weight: 845-1,145 g (females), 630-770 g (males)

The Booted Eagle is clearly a small Eagle, and in fact has almost identical measurements to the Common Buzzard, and it also resembles European buzzards in its overall shape and proportions.


The Booted Eagle looks like a Buzzard, although it has slightly more slender wings and tail. However, the best way to distinguish it from a Buzzard is by the uniformly pale cream colored underside of the Booted Eagle, which is different from the speckled underside of Common Buzzards

Photo of Booted Eagle with freshly caught pigeon
Booted Eagle with freshly caught pigeon

Sexual dimorphism

Similar to most birds of prey in Europe, the male Booted Eagles are significantly smaller than females, and basically don’t overlap in size. 


The maximum documented age of Booted Eagles in captivity is 12 years, which is considerably shorter than that of other Eagle species and large raptors

Scientific name and taxonomy

The scientific name of the Booted Eagle is Aquila pennata. It is thought to have 3 different subspecies, only one of which occurs in Europe. The closest relative of the Booted Eagle in Europe is Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata).

Booted Eagle distribution

The Booted Eagle breeds in Southern Europe in Spain, Portugal, and Southern France, and also occurs in Eastern Europe and Turkey, and its range extends eastwards from there via the Middle East to Central Asia. Finally, there is a separate population that breeds in Namibia and South Africa.

Booted Eagle habitat

The Booted Eagle prefers woodland areas, but without too dense forest growth. In areas with dense forests, it hunts in clearings and at the forest edges. The reason for this is probably connected to the fact that it takes most prey on the ground after stooping down on it from a height. The Booted Eagle also hunts in open landscapes, such as grassland and semi-arid zones.

Booted Eagle population size

The European population of the Booted Eagle is estimated to be between 4,000 and 9,000 breeding pairs by BirdLife International, while the global population could be as high as 100,000 breeding paris.

Booted Eagle behavior

The preferred mode of hunting is slow soaring and gliding over slopes and forest edges, followed by stooping down on prey after spotting it on the ground. In other instances it also uses a high perch to wait for prey, and then stoops down on it from there.

Feeding and diet

While the diet of the Booted Eagle is very diverse, the largest part is made up of various bird species, usually representing the most common species in a particular location. When it is present close to human settlements, it often feeds on bird species that thrive close to humans, including pigeons, starlings, and magpies. In addition to birds it also takes a wide variety of lizards, mammals and insects.


Builds its nest either on a tree or on a cliff ledge, and likes to take over old nests of other large birds, including crows, raptors, and herons. On average, 2 eggs are laid, and incubated for 35-40 days before hatching. The chicks stay in the nest for up to 55 days, and the parents continue to feed them for several weeks after the leave the nest.


The Booted Eagle is strictly migratory, and spends the winter in Africa south of the Sahara desert. Only a handful of individuals are recorded in Europe over the winter months. It winters in areas that don’t have dense rainforest, but otherwise shows a lot of flexibility in its choice of wintering habitat.

Booted Eagle conservation status

Since it is globally not threatened, and common in large parts of its range, the conservation status of the Booted Eagle is classified as of “Least Concern” by BirdLife international. However, many local populations in Europe are very small, which makes them vulnerable to changes, and so should be closely monitored.


The biggest threat to Booted Eagles is currently the destruction of their favored habitat, which includes old forests for breeding, and more open landscapes for hunting.  

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