Greater Spotted Eagle Clanga clanga


Justification of Red List Category
This species has a small population which appears to be declining owing to extensive habitat loss and persistent persecution. It is therefore listed as Vulnerable.

Population justification
In Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 810-1,100 breeding pairs, equating to 2,430-3,300 individuals (BirdLife International 2004). Europe forms 25-49% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 5,000-13,200 individuals in total, roughly equating to 3,300-8,800 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed. National population estimates include: c.100-10,000 breeding pairs, c.50-1,000 individuals on migration and c.50-1,000 wintering individuals in China; < c.50 individuals on migration and < c.50 wintering individuals in Taiwan and c.100-10,000 breeding pairs and c.50-1,000 individuals on migration in Russia (Brazil 2009).

Trend justification
This species is suspected to have undergone at least a moderately rapid decline over the last three generations as a result of habitat loss and degradation throughout its breeding and wintering ranges, together with the effects of disturbance, persecution and competition with other predators. In Europe the population size is estimated to be decreasing by 50-79% in 49.8 years (three generations) and by at least 20% in 33.2 years (two generations) (BirdLife International 2015).

Distribution and population

This species occupies a fragmented range, breeding in Estonia (Lõhmus 1998), Poland, Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, mainland China and Mongolia (Meyburg et al. 1999), and apparently regularly in tiny numbers in Pakistan and north-west India (BirdLife International 2001), with some individuals possibly still breeding in Finland and Lithuania (Database of the Lithuanian Ornithological Society 1999, BirdLife International 2015). Passage or wintering birds occur in small numbers over a vast area, including central and eastern Europe, North Africa, East Africa, the Middle East, the Arabian peninsula, the Indian Subcontinent, south Asia and South-East Asia. Wintering birds have also been reported in Hong Kong (China). The population probably numbers fewer than 10,000 mature individuals with Russia holding 2,800-3,000 pairs. The European population is estimated to be 770-1,000 pairs (with c.120-160 pairs in Belarus) (BirdLife International 2015). Numbers appear to have declined in the western half of its range and in some parts of its Asian range. However, long-term trends are difficult to assess owing to identification problems.


It occurs in lowland forests near wetlands, nesting in different types of (generally tall) trees, depending on local conditions. It feeds on unretrieved quarry, small mammals, waterbirds, frogs and snakes, hunting over swamps, wet meadows and, in Europe, over extensively managed agricultural land (A. Lõhmus in litt. 1999); birds soar to c.100 m high when hunting. It is a migratory species, with birds leaving their breeding grounds in October and November to winter in southern Europe, southern Asia and north-east Africa (del Hoyo et al. 1994). They tend to return in February and March. Birds migrate on a broad front, tending to pass in singles, twos and threes with the occasional larger group (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). They do not concentrate at bottleneck sites to the extent of many other raptors such as Clanga pomarina (del Hoyo et al. 1994).


There is strong evidence of hybridisation between this species and Lesser Spotted Eagle Clanga pomarina (Bergmanis et al. 1997, Lohmus and Vali 2001, Dombrovski 2002, Vali et al. 2010). In some European countries mixed pairs can constitute 50% of Greater Spotted Eagle pairs (Maciorowski and Mizera 2010) or even more (Vali 2011). It is unclear whether this represents a new phenomenon or a conservation concern, but A. pomarina is far more numerous than C. clanga in the zone of overlap, and the range of C. pomarina appears to be spreading east, further into the range of C. clanga. Other key threats are habitat destruction and disturbance, also poaching and electrocution can be considered important. Suitable habitat mosaics have been lost as a result of afforestation and wetland drainage. In eastern Europe, agricultural intensification and the abandonment of traditional floodplain management have reduced habitat quality (A. Lõhmus in litt. 1999). In Thailand, replacement of low intensity, rain-fed single crop rice by multi-cropped intensive rice farms removes suitable wintering habitat (P. D. Round in litt. 2016). Birds are intolerant of permanent human presence in their territories. Forestry operations are a major cause of disturbance. Shooting is a threat in Russia, the Mediterranean, South-East Asia and Africa (P. D. Round in litt. 1998, P. Mirski in litt. 2012), together with deliberate and accidental poisoning across much of its range. In Israel, poisoning and electrocution are major causes for casualties of wintering population (Perlman and Granit 2012).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II, CMS Appendix I and II. EU Birds Directive Annex I. It is legally protected in Belarus, Estonia, France, Greece, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Russia and Thailand. An International Lesser and Greater Spotted Eagle Working Group has been established. A European action plan was published in 2000 (Meyburg et al. 1999), but given the increase in knowledge and work being conducted on this species in the intervening years it was suggested this plan could be updated (Mirski 2012, I. Burfield in litt. 2013). The first national census was conducted in Belarus during 2000-2002. Research into hybridisation and habitat requirements began in Belarus in 2003. National Action Plans for the species have been produced in Belarus (Dombrovski et al. (2002), Estonia and Ukraine (Domashevsky 2000), and one for Poland has been planned (Mirski 2012). Site protection measures have been initiated at key Belarusian, Polish and Estonian sites, including restricting forestry activities at nest sites during the breeding season.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey range and population. Establish long-term monitoring schemes to improve understanding of population trends. Improve understanding of breeding habitat requirements. Protect breeding areas from drainage and rising of infrastructure. Maintain traditional wet meadows. Regulate forestry to minimise disturbance and protect potential nesting trees. Investigate potential threat of hybridisation with C. pomarina. Prevent illegal shooting, poisoning and electrocution. Investigate lead poisoning from feeding on quarry. Raise awareness.


62-74 cm. Medium-sized, dark eagle. Adult dark brown with slightly paler flight feathers. Underwing-coverts generally darker than flight feathers. Bands of white spots across upperwing of juveniles. In gliding flight, often depresses hands. Similar spp. Lesser Spotted Eagle A. pomarina is slightly smaller, narrower winged and less stocky. Plumage generally paler and most show contrast between paler underwing and upperwing-coverts and darker flight feathers. Confusion is also possible with adult Steppe Eagle A. nipalenis, Tawny Eagle A. rapax and Eastern Imperial Eagle A. heliaca. Voice Barking kyak during breeding.


Text account compilers
Khwaja, N., Westrip, J., Ashpole, J, Peet, N., Capper, D., Pilgrim, J., Shutes, S., Derhé, M., Bird, J., Wheatley, H., Taylor, J., Butchart, S., Gilroy, J.

Hilton, G., Limparungpatthanakij, W., Mirski, P., Round, P., Burfield, I., Löhmas, A., Perlman, Y.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Clanga clanga. Downloaded from on 21/10/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 21/10/2021.