White-tailed Sea-eagle Haliaeetus albicilla


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 population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over 10 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 10 years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
In Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 10,400-14,600 breeding pairs, equating to 20,900-29,200 mature individuals (BirdLife International in prep.). Europe forms 50-74% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 28,200-58,400 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed. It is placed in the band 20,000-60,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The population is increasing locally owing to conservation measures such as protecting eyries, providing safe (non-poisoned) food and re-introductions to certain areas such as Bavaria (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). The European population is increasing (BirdLife International in prep.). The population appears to be increasing in parts of Russia (Shukov 2019) and Japan (Shiraki 2018).

Distribution and population

The species has its strongholds in Norway and Russia (which together hold >55% of the European population [BirdLife International 2004]), and important populations in south-west Greenland (to Denmark), Sweden, Poland and Germany. Smaller numbers breed in Iceland, United Kingdom, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, the former Yugoslav states, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Moldova, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Mongolia, mainland China, and Japan. It formerly bred in Algeria and may still do so in Iraq.


The species requires large and open expanses of lake, coast or river valley, within the boreal, temperate and tundra zones, nearby to undisturbed cliffs or open stands of large, old-growth trees for nesting. Its food is vertebrates (fish, mammals and especially birds), from marine, freshwater and terrestrial environments. It is mainly migratory in the north and east of its breeding range, wintering in continental Europe and southern Asia, but sedentary elsewhere. Birds are usually seen singly, or in twos or threes (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001).


Threats that affect this species include loss and degradation of wetlands, human disturbance and persecution, environmental pollution, collision with wind generators (Krone and Scharnweber 2003), and indiscriminate use of poisons. Modern forestry methods reduce the availability of suitable nesting habitat (Orta et al. 2013). Organochlorine pesticide and heavy metal pollution resulted in reductions in breeding success, particularly in the Baltic region (Orta et al. 2013). Although some losses may be taking place in Asian Russia owing to increased logging and oil industry development, these are outweighed by increases in Europe.
Accidental lead poisoning from spent ammunition remains a considerable source of mortality in Finland (Isomursu et al. 2018), with other anthropogenic causes of death including collisions with traffic and power lines or deliberate shooting. Overall, this study found that anthropogenic factors accounted for 60% of eagle deaths. Loss of large trees has left a deficit of suitable nesting sites, and increasing habituation to humans has meant that eagles nest closer to cities (Shiraki 2018). This has increased the number of collisions between eagles and traffic, and may be linked to lower breeding success (ibid). Collisions with wind turbines is an additional source of mortality (Heuck et al. 2019; Matsuda et al. 2021), though the risk can be mitigated with adaptive management (Matsuda et al. 2021). 
Birds are occasionally threatened by outbreaks of avian influenza virus (Krone et al. 2018).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I. CMS Appendix I and II. EU Birds Directive Annex I. Bern Convention Annex I and II. Raptor MOU Category 3. There are 779 Natura 2000 sites designated for this species. During the second half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first, it was subject to several local and national reintroduction and restoration programmes (e.g. Czechia [Rajchard et al. 2010], Scotland [Sansom et al. 2016], Ireland [O'Rourke 2014]). In some cases, these reintroduction schemes have been met with resistance due to concerns of livestock predation (ibid). In 2011, Danube Parks published an action plan for the conservation of the white-tailed sea-eagles within its protected area (Probst and Gabroik 2011). Monitoring occurs across 17 European countries (Derlink et al. 2018).

Conservation actions needed
Careful planning of habitat conversion to preserve perch trees (Balotari-Chiebao et al. 2021). Adaptive management of wind farms, for example by reducing their use during overwintering period in Japan, can reduce eagle mortality (Matsuda et al. 2021). Encourage use of lead-free ammunition in hunting (Helander et al. 2021). Retrofit existing pylons to reduce electrocution risk (Cole and Dahl 2013). Introduce, enforce or strengthen currents legislation banning intentional killings.


Text account compilers
Murray-Watson, R., Fernando, E.

Ashpole, J, Benstead, P., Harding, M. & Khwaja, N.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Haliaeetus albicilla. Downloaded from on 28/03/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 28/03/2023.