What Is the Booted Eagle?

Rebecca Cartwright

A small eagle native to southern Europe, the booted eagle is found throughout much of Asia and parts of Africa. Its name refers to the characteristic heavy covering of feathers on the eagle's legs. The species is generally known scientifically as Aquila pennata, though some authorities still use an older classification, Hieraaetus pennatus. Small rodents and reptiles, along with insects, form the greatest part of its diet. The booted eagle prefers to hunt and nest in fairly open areas such as broken forests, sea cliffs and deserts.

Booted eagles will hunt and nest along sea cliffs.
Booted eagles will hunt and nest along sea cliffs.

Booted eagles are found from Portugal and France east through all of southern Europe and the Balkans. Its range extends on through Iran and south-central Asia to the western part of the Himalayas and northern Mongolia. The European population migrates to North Africa, while there are separate populations in South Africa and Namibia.

One area that booted eagles prefer to hunt and nest in is the desert.
One area that booted eagles prefer to hunt and nest in is the desert.

An adult booted eagle averages 16.5 to 20 inches (about 40 to 50 cm) long, with a wingspan of 44 to 53 inches(about 112 to 134 cm.) Females are, on average, 10 percent larger than males, weighing 2 to 2.5 pounds (about 0.9 to 1.15 kg) while males are usually 1.35 to 1.7 pounds(about 0.6 to 0.75 kg.) All booted eagles have a medium brown upper body and wings, with lighter gold to cream on the head and white markings on the wings. Some have a lighter, cream-colored, lower body while others have a dark-brown lower body spotted with lighter and darker areas.

Booted eagles build their nests in trees or on cliffs in open areas with good visibility around the nest site. They will often use a nest built the year before by a different species. The population in the southern part of Africa nests exclusively on sea cliffs. Individuals are usually solitary, except during mating season, and are found in a wide variety of habitats including open woodlands, grasslands, and deserts. Some of these birds have been known to live up to 12 years.

This species breeds once a year, laying a clutch of one to three eggs, which are incubated for 35 to 40 days. Their eggs are off-white to greenish-white with brown splotches. Out of a three egg clutch, usually only two chicks are successfully raised. The chicks are fledged and can leave the nest by 50 to 55 days after hatching. Some local populations of the booted eagle may have declined in number in the early 21st century, but it remains a common species across most of its range.

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