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Grey-headed Fish Eagle
Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus

Status: Near Threatened

Population Trend: Declining.

Other Names: Ceylon Grey-headed Fishing Eagle, Gray-headed Fishing-eagle, Gray-headed Fishing Eagle, Greater Fishing Eagle, Grey-headed Fish-eagle, Grey-headed Fishing-eagle, Tank Eagle.

Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus
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Distribution: Indomalayan. INDIA (except for the northwest), NEPAL, and SRI LANKA east through Indochina and Malay Peninsula to the GREATER SUNDAS, northern and eastern PHILIPPINES, and SULAWESI. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic. The population in Sri Lanka is sometimes regarded as a separate race, plumbeiceps, but it was not recognized by Clark (1994).

Taxonomy: This genus is closely related to the sea eagles, Haliaeetus and clusters with the southern species of that genus (Lerner and Mindell 2005). The spelling "Grey" is used here for the vernacular name to conform to usage within the range of the species.

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

Habitat and Habits: Frequents freshwater lakes, marshes, swamps, and along stretches of large, slow-moving rivers running through forests, and occasionally estuaries and coastal areas up to 1,525 m (Coates and Bishop 1997, Grimmett et al. 1998, Kennedy et al. 2000). Sluggish, often perching on bare limbs at subcanopy level, overlooking water. Occurs singly, or in pairs (Coates and Bishop op cit.). more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds on fish, which it snatches from surface of water by pouncing from a perch or by swooping from the air (Coates and Bishop 1997, Kennedy et al. 2000). Both species in the genus Ichthyophaga have strongly recurved talons like those of the Osprey, a specialization for capturing fish (Poole 1989), but one which is lacking in Haliaeetus. Tingay et al. (2006, 2010) surveyed a nesting population of this species in Cambodia, where this species feeds on as many as five species of water snakes. Whether this is of regular occurrence or a seasonal phenomenon is not yet known.

Breeding: Builds a massive stick nest lined with leafy twigs placed in a tree adjacent to water. One in Malaysia was 30 m high in the main-crown fork of an emergent tree, and another was 23 m high in a stand of dead paperbarks (Melaleuca cajiputi) in open swampland (Wells 1999). Clutch size is two eggs, which are white and unmarked. more....

Conservation: A poorly studied species thought to be in recent decline in many portions of its range, possibly as the result of habitat loss (deforestation and loss of wetlands), overfishing, siltation, human disturbance, and pesticide contamination (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001, BirdLife International 2009), although Tingay et al. (2006, 2010) pointed out that these statements are based mostly on anecdotal evidence. The latter authors found a negative correlation between human habitation and fish eagle nest site occupancy rates in Cambodia. This species is categorized globally as Near Threatened by BirdLife International. more....

Population Estimates: Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2001) estimated the global population, including adults and immatures at the start of the breeding season, broadly from 1,000 to 100,000 individuals, noting that "it may be unrealistic to assume total population higher than somewhere around five-figure mark." BirdLife International (2009) estimated the number of mature birds as 1,000 to 10,000 individuals, noting that the data supporting this estimate are poor. more....

Important References: 
Clark, W.S. 1994. Grey-headed Fishing-eagle. P. 123 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.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Lerner, H.R., and D.P. Mindell. 2005. Phylogeny of eagles, Old World
  vultures, and other Accipitridae based on nuclear and mitochondrial DNA.
  Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 37:327-346.
Naoroji, R. 2006. Birds of prey of the Indian subcontinent. Christopher
  Helm, London.
Tingay, R.E., M.A.C. Nicoll, and S. Visal. 2006. Status and distribution
  of the Grey-headed Fish-Eagle (Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus) in the Prek Toal
  core area of Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia. Journal of Raptor Research
Tingay, R.E., M.A.C. Nicoll, D.P. Whitfield, S. Visal, and D.R.A. McLeod.
  2010. Nesting ecology of the Grey-headed Fish-eagle at Prek Toal, Tonle Sap
  lake, Cambodia. Journal of Raptor Research 44:165-174.
Wells, D.R. 1999. The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula, covering Burma
  and Thailand south of the eleventh parallel, Peninsular Malaysia and
  Singapore. Volume One. Non-passerines. Academic Press, San Diego, CA.

Sites of Interest:
Grey-headed Fish Eagle photos.

Kothe, Sudhanshu
Tingay, Ruth
Yong, Ding Li

Last modified: 9/26/2010

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2020. Species account: Grey-headed Fish Eagle Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 25 Sep. 2020

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