Large brown eagles - An identification guide

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11 years 9 months ago #856 by Doug
Doug created the topic: Large brown eagles - An identification guide
Hi all.

Just a quick thanks to Trevor who responded that the nostril shape is infact a good technique for seperating the eagle into two groups. He mentioned this fact in the posting on 4 Raptors in the ID section.

Here is the basic overview.

Nostril shape
The nostril shape of the larger Aquila Eagles can be used to divide them into two groups.

The Tawny and Steppe Group have oval or "slit" nostrils. The Spotted Eagles (Lesser and Great) both have round nostrils. Wahlberg's also has rounder nostrils and as a result one has to be careful with Wahlberg's in the context of Eagle ID and the oval nostril can only really be used to point to or exclude Tawny and Steppe Eagles (courtesy of comments by Trevor Hardaker).


Once you have decided what group the birds belong to, you can use the following basic tips (more to be added later).

Tawny / Steppe
Although similar in shape and size, the Steppe Eagle has a gape that extends to the back of the eye, Tawny's gape only exyends to the middle of the eye. Also Steppe Eagle has a pale throat patch, Tawny does not.

Spotted Eagles

Overall, Great Spotted Eagle is much bigger than Lesser Spotted and has a darker plumage often with a purplish sheen on it.

Lesser Spotted Eagle is smaller and lacks this Sheen.

Here is a brief overview of the nostril technique for Eagle ID. Bear in mind you will need to take a lot more factors into account, but this is a good place to start.
Tawny Eagle Oval/Slit nostril - Gape extends to middle of eye
Steppe Eagle Oval/Slit nostril - Gape extends to back of eye
Lesser Spotted Eagle Round nostril - Gape extends to back of eye or further
Great Spotted Eagle Round nostril - Gape extends to back of eye or further
Wahlberg's Eagle Round nostril - Gape extends only to front of eye or midle at most

Regards.
Doug

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