Conservation of nest zone protected birds in the selected Natura 2000 sites in Lubelszczyzna region

White-tailed Eagle

Species characteristics

The white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) is the largest breeding bird of prey in Poland. In this species the wingspan can reach up to 240 cm with a body length of 92 cm. Adult white-tailed eagles have a buff greyish back and belly, pale head and neck, snow-white, wedge-shaped tail and yellow bill, irises and featherless lower parts of the legs. Young birds are dark brown with buff feathers on top of the wings and on the chest. They have dark bills and irises. At the age of 4-5 years they gain adult plumage. Females and males do not differ in terms of plumage but their sizes are different – females are slightly larger. Their long, "barn door-shaped" wings, pale, protruding head and wedge-shaped tail make them easy to identify during flight.

A pair occupies their territory for the whole year. The birds migrate only during severe winters in search of food, such as to non-frozen water reservoirs. Adult white-tailed eagles, at least 5 years old, make pairs that often last for life. They occupy territories covering on average about 100 km2. The birds build their nests during the autumn before the breeding season and may use the same site for several years, continually enlarging it. Long-used nests can reach impressive sizes – up to 2.5 m in diameter, up to 3 m in height and can weigh nearly a ton. Such a load often causes branches to break and damage to the nest. In Poland white-tailed eagles build their nests on suitably high and old trees, most often on pines, alders, oaks and beeches. During a year, the pair produces one brood. The female lays 2-3 eggs and incubates them until they hatch. Despite the fact that the nestlings do not hatch at the same time, the phenomenon of cainism almost never occurs. When there is enough food, all the nestlings have the chance to survive.


Nesting habitat

The white-tailed eagle lives in almost all forest types, particularly in coniferous forests, beech forests and riparian forests, adjacent to lakes, fish ponds and river valleys. During severe winters large groups of birds can be observed in places abundant in food, such as over non-frozen rivers or reservoirs.



The white-tailed eagle mainly feeds on fish and water birds. It preys, using a variety of techniques, on carp, common bream, northern pike and common roach. Among birds it mainly hunts for Eurasian coot, duck and grebe. More rarely it catches mammals – hares and young roe deer. White-tailed eagles also do not despise carrion.


The white-tailed eagle lives in northern, eastern and central Europe. It also occurs in Greenland and Iceland and in the northern part of Asia. Its distribution also includes Japan, China and Mongolia. In Poland it is present, with varying densities, throughout the whole country, particularly in the entire western, northern and north-eastern parts of the country. Poland is also an important winter quarter for white-tailed eagles.



Conservation status

This species is subject to strict protection. Protection zones are made around the nests: for the whole year with a radius up to 200 m and periodically (from 1 January to 31 July) - with a radius up to 500 m. In Poland the white-tailed eagle has the status of very scarce breeding bird – its abundance is estimated at 1200-1500 pairs. It was placed in the Polish Red Data Book of Animals and in Attachment 1 to the Birds Directive. About 60 pairs of white-tailed eagles live in south-eastern Poland.



The main threats to the white-tailed eagle include:

  • frightening birds near the nests;
  • building tourism infrastructure on areas used as feeding grounds;
  • persecution of birds by shooting and poisoning;
  • degradation of hunting grounds;
  • collisions with overhead power lines;
  • predation by ravens and martens on eggs and nestlings;
  • strong winds and storms damaging trees with nests.



Home | Contact | News | Species | Monitoring | Protection | Promotion | About project | LTO na Facebooku, Twitterze i Youtubie
© LTO 2015 waldemi
User name Password