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Madagascar Fish Eagle
Haliaeetus vociferoides

Status: Critically endangered

Population Trend: Stable.

Other Names: Madagascar Fish-eagle, Madagascar Sea-eagle, Madagascar Sea Eagle.

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Haliaeetus vociferoides
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Distribution: Afrotropical. Endemic to central and northwestern MADAGASCAR. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic.

Taxonomy: A morphological analysis by Zimbelmann (1992), an allozyme analysis by Schreiber and Weitzel (1995), and molecular phylogenetic analyses by Wink et al. (1996), Seibold and Helbig (1996), and Lerner and Mindell (2005), confirmed that Haliaeetus is monophyletic with a close relationship to the milvine kites of the genera Milvus and Haliastur. The latter authors found that the southern sea eagle species, H. leucogaster, H. sanfordi, H. vocifer,, and H. vociferoidesH. vociferoides and H. vocifer are sister species (Wink and Sauer-Gürth 2000, 2004, and Lerner and Mindell op cit.), and both were formerly placed in a separate genus, Cuncuma. more....

Movements: Non-migratory, but juveniles disperse from breeding areas (Bildstein 2006).

Habitat and Habits: Occurs in coastal habitats, islands, lakes, and rivers with adjacent woodlands, also mangroves, from sea level to 1,200 m (Langrand 1990). In the central and southern part of its range, it occurs most commonly on rivers and lakes, where it depends heavily on large trees on shorelines for perches and nesting (Rabarisoa et al. 2003). Although it spends much of the time perched on a snag or post, it often soars over bodies of water. It seems to have a preference for deeper and clearer lakes (Berkelman et al. 1999, Watson et al. 2000). Occurs singly, or often in pairs, even during the non-breeding season. more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds mainly on fish, which it spots from a perch, taking them from the surface of water in a shallow dive. These eagles also take crabs, young marine turtles, and occasionally birds, and they pirate prey from other bird species. Large fish are carried to a perch or to land to be eaten. Rand (1936) saw them coming to fish weirs placed by the natives, where they removed stranded fish before the tide had fallen enough for the fishermen to come and collect their catch. more....

Breeding: The breeding season begins in May with courtship and nest building. The large bulky stick nest is placed in a fork in the top of a mangrove or other large tree, or on a cliff or crag on a rocky island. Clutch size is usually 2 eggs, which are laid from the end of May to mid-July, and incubation begins after the first egg is laid (Rabarisoa et al. 2003). The incubation period ranges from 37 to 43 days, and both parents participate, but with the female predominating (Watson et al. 1999). Replacement clutches are occasionally laid, when a nest fails. The nestling period ranges from 78 to 89 days, with nestlings typically moving from the nest to nearby branches at about 70 days (Watson et al. op cit.). Invariably, only one nestling survives, as a result of siblicide. This species exhibits both cooperative polyandry and cooperative breeding, with extrapair adults (all males) attending nests being less closely related to the nesting pair than to adults at other nests (Tingay 2000). more....

Conservation: BirdLife International categorizes this species as Critically Endangered, based on its small population "that is probably declining rapidly." However, researchers associated with The Peregrine Fund's Madagascar Project have not detected any major downward trend in numbers during studies dating back to the early 1990s. Furthermore, based on the historical literature, museum literature, and contemporary findings, Tingay (2005) argued convincingly that this is simply a naturally rare species that has not probably not suffered any recent population decline or range contraction. Her interpretation was recently confirmed by Johnson et al. (2009), who investigated genetic diversity in this species and related Haliaeetus species, using 47 microsatellite loci. They found that the Madagascar Fish Eagle has extremely low genetic diversity, but that it has maintained a small effective population size for hundreds to thousands of years. Thus, its low population is not the result of a recent bottleneck. If there has not been a recent population decline, and if there are as many as 350 individuals (see next section), it should receive only Endangered status. more....

Population Estimates: Rabarisoa et al. (1997) estimated the population at 222 adults, or around 100-120 pairs, in 1995, although they had actually documented only 63 pairs between 1991 and 1995. After a decade of additional monitoring, Rabarisoa et al. (2003) stated that they knew the nesting locations of about 75 pairs. Based on later surveys, the National Director of The Peregrine Fund's Madagascar Project, Lily René de Roland, estimated the total population at 350 individuals in August 2006 (L. René de Roland pers. comm.). more....

Important References: 

Berkelman, J., J.D. Fraser, and R.T. Watson. 1999. Madagascar Fish-eagle
  prey preference and foraging success. Wilson Bulletin 111:15-21.
Berkelman, J., J.D. Fraser, and R.T. Watson. 2002. Nesting and perching
  habitat use of the Madagascar Fish-eagle. Journal of Raptor Research
Berkelman, J.D., J.D. Fraser, and R.T. Watson. 1999. Lake selection by
  Madagascar Fish-eagles. Auk 116:976-983.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Johnson, J.A., R.E. Tingay, M. Culver, F. Hailer, M.L. Clarke, and D.P.
2009. Long-term survival despite low genetic diversity in the
  critically endangered Madagascar Fish-eagle. Molecular Ecology 18:54-63.
Kemp, A.S. 1994. Madagascar Fish-eagle. Pp. 121-122 in del Hoyo, J., A.
  Elliott, and J. Sargatal (eds.), Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New
  World vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Rabarisoa, R., S. Rafanomezantsoa, and R.T. Watson. 2003. Falconiformes:
  Haliaeetus vociferoides, Madagascar Fish-eagle, Ankoay. Pp. 1085-1087 in
  S.M. Goodman and J.P. Benstead (eds.), The natural history of Madagascar.
  University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.
Tingay, R. 2005. Historical distribution, contemporary status and
  cooperative breeding in the Madagascar Fish Eagle: implications for
  conservation. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Nottingham, UK, Nottingham.
Tingay, R.E., M. Culver, E.M. Hallerman, J.D. Fraser, and R.T. Watson.
  2002. Subordinate males sire offspring in Madagascar Fish-eagle (Haliaeetus
) polyandrous breeding groups. Journal of Raptor Research
Watson, R.T., J. Berkelman, R. Rabarisoa, R. Thorstrom, and C.R.B. Watson
  2000. Description of nesting and foraging habitat of the Madagascar
  Fish-eagle Haliaeetus vociferoides: a conservation initiative.
  Ostrich 71:336-340.
Watson, R.T., S. Razafindramanana, R. Thorstrom, and S.
1999. Breeding biology, extra-pair birds,
  productivity, siblicide and conservation of the Madagascar Fish-eagle.
  Ostrich 70:105-111.

Sites of Interest:
The Peregrine Fund
Long-term field studies.
Madagascar Fish Eagle photos.

Rene de Roland, Lily-Arison
Tingay, Ruth
Watson, Rick

Last modified: 8/3/2015

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2020. Species account: Madagascar Fish Eagle Haliaeetus vociferoides. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 31 May. 2020

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