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What Is the Steppe Eagle?

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  • Written By: Alex Paul
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2016
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The Steppe eagle is a large bird of prey found in parts of Asia and Europe. It has mainly brown feathers and is similar in appearance to the tawny eagle, which inhabits large regions of Africa. As its name suggests, the Steppe eagle mainly lives in open areas such as steppes or grasslands. Although the bird isn’t officially endangered, its numbers have been declining in Europe for a number of years.

A large bird, the Steppe eagle can grow up to 32 inches (81 centimeters) in length. It has a wingspan that typically ranges between 65 and 79 inches (165 and 200 centimeters), and it may weigh up to 11 pounds (around 5 kilograms). The female Steppe eagle is slightly heavier and bigger than the male. Both the male and the female have brown and black coloring, along with a lighter throat that isn’t seen in similar species such as the tawny eagle.

Mainly found in central Asia and North Russia, the Steppe eagle lives in countries such as Moldova and Mongolia, along with northern parts of China. The bird once inhabited other areas of Europe, such as Romania and Ukraine, but is extinct in these regions as of 2011. The eagle often migrates to Africa in the winter months to avoid colder weather.

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To hunt effectively, the Steppe eagle lives in open areas such as deserts and grasslands. This provides the bird with an open landscape in which to view and catch prey. The diet of a Steppe eagle largely consists of small mammals, such as the little ground squirrel. If no mammals are available, then the eagle will eat other birds and reptiles and will take food from other birds of prey. To supplement its diet in the winter, a Steppe eagle also will eat insects and can sometimes be found feeding in landfills.

The population of Steppe eagles in Europe is thought to be declining. In 1990, there were an estimated 20,000 breeding pairs in Europe, but the number is thought to be much smaller as of 2011. The bird isn’t officially endangered, however, and is considered a species of “least concern." It is thought that the reduction in breeding pairs is a result of destruction of the bird’s natural habitat, although the stealing of young eagles by humans also is a problem. The eagles can fetch a large price in parts of Asia and Europe, which makes them attractive to poachers but has a destructive effect on population numbers.

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