Lesser Spotted Eagle Clanga pomarina


Justification of Red List category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (extent of occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The global population is suspected to be stable, therefore it does not approach the thresholds under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
The European population is estimated at 17,100-23,100 pairs, which equates to 34,200-46,200 mature individuals (BirdLife International in prep.). Europe forms approximately 73% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 46,800-63,300 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed. A survey in 2014 counted 47,594 individuals in southern Turkey (S. Oppel in litt. 2014). c.58,000 individuals were recorded in 2008 during migration counts over the Bosporus (Fülöp et al. 2014), and 51,850 were counted in 2014 at a migration bottleneck near Burgas, Bulgaria (Iankov et al. 2019). It is placed in the band 45,000 to 65,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
Although this species may have undergone a decline, recent annual counts in Israel suggest the population has recovered to some extent in recent years (D. Alon in litt. 2006). In Europe, which supports approximately 73% of the global population, the population size is estimated to be undergoing a small increase of <10% over three generations (25.71 years [Bird et al. 2020]) (BirdLife International in prep.).


Behaviour This is a migratory species, migrants leaving their breeding grounds between August and November, and returning in March and April (del Hoyo et al. 1994, Snow and Perrins 1998, Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). It relies heavily on soaring flight using thermals, and thus avoids large bodies of water (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Birds are generally observed singly or in pairs, but will congregate at plentiful food sources, and migrate in flocks (Snow and Perrins 1998, Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001, Porter and Aspinall 2010). Habitat It breeds near forest edges, preferring moist woodland; most nest in lowlands but it is recorded breeding up to 2,200 m in montane areas (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Diet Mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians are all taken as prey, with different prey types predominating in different parts of its range (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Breeding site Nests are built in trees, usually close to the forest edge (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Management information Where populations are struggling, productivity can be increased artificially by ensuring both chicks survive to fledging: in natural conditions one is almost always lost by siblicide, known as "cainism" (del Hoyo et al. 1994).


The main threats posed to this species are through habitat loss (notably abandonment or conversion of grasslands into arable land and deforestation) and hunting (del Hoyo et al. 1994, Meyburg et al. 2014). The latter is especially prevalent on migration, with possibly thousands of birds shot annually in Syria and Lebanon (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Deforestation is degrading breeding habitats (Dravecký et al. 2015), and disturbance caused by forestry workers reduces breeding success (Demerdzhiev et al.. 2019). Studies on habitat use in Estonia suggest that changes in agricultural practices, particularly a reduction in grassland, and an increasing sown area of oilseed rape and maize may degrade foraging habitat around breeding areas (Vali et al. 2017). Abandonment of breeding territories has been linked to depopulation of rural areas leading to a decline in stock grazing, resulting in afforestation of grassland and a decline in rodent prey (Demerdzhiev et al. 2019). It is also very highly vulnerable to the impacts of potential wind energy developments (Strix 2012). Electrocution may pose an additional threat on migration and at wintering grounds, but this has not been well studied (Demerdzhiev & Ratarova-Georgieva 2017). The Chernobyl nuclear accident may have affected the species (Alon 2000 in Global Raptor Information Network 2015). Construction of the new Istanbul airport could have an impact on the species (S. Oppel in litt. 2014). Egg collection for private collections has been recorded in Bulgaria (unpublished data, cited in Demerdzhiev et al 2019). Meyburg et al (2018) reported an incident in which a radio tagged Lesser-spotted Eagle was struck by an aircraft in Poland, suggesting that this may be an additional threat during migration.

Conservation actions

Conservation actions underway
CITES Appendix II, CMS Appendix II, Raptors MOU Category 3, EU Birds Directive Annex I, Bern Convention Appendix II. Systematic breeding schemes in place in at least 8 European countries (Derlink et al. 2018). A European Species Action Plan was published in 1997 (Meyburg et al. 1997) and was updated in 2010. The species is in the Red Data Books of several countries and is legally protected in all countries where the action plan applies. LIFE projects focusing on conservation of Lesser-spotted eagle have taken place in Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia. Activities included implementation of buffer zones around nest sites, satellite tracking of individuals, training foresters in implementation of eagle-friendly forest management practices, mounting of artificial nesting platforms, insulation of overhead electric cables, and development of national action plans.
Conservation actions needed
Wide-scale conservation measures are needed to protect the breeding and foraging habitats (Tucker and Heath 1994). Maintain traditional agricultural practices where possible, including retention of grasslands and maintenance of forest clearings (Vali et al. 2017; Poirazidis et al. 2019). Identify key nesting areas and migratory roost sites and establish protected areas (Dravecký et al. 2015). Research key threats on migratory pathways and at wintering grounds. Monitor population numbers during migration.


55-65 cm. Wingspan 143-168 cm. A medium-sized, dark and compact eagle. Has broad wings with fingered tips and a small bill. Plumage is dark brown with paler head and neck and upperwing-coverts. Shows a small white primary patch above. The underwing-coverts are paler than the flight feathers when seen from below. Juveniles are darker above than adults. They have a rufous patch on the nape. The greater coverts, trailing edge of the wing and tail are tipped white.


Text account compilers
Haskell, L.

Alon, D., Flade, M., Galushin, V.M., Halmos, G., Hilton, G., Meyberg, B., Strazds, M., Oppel, S., Ashpole, J, Butchart, S., Harding, M., Ekstrom, J., Khwaja, N. & Bird, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Species factsheet: Clanga pomarina. Downloaded from on 23/02/2024.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2024) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 23/02/2024.