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The Bonelli’s eagle

The Bonelli’s eagle is a top predator from the Languedoc. This eagle doesn’t migrate, but the young birds move around before settling to breed.

It’s a medium size eagle with a wingspan of about 165 cm. The Bonelli’s eagle can be identified by their rather short but broad and rounded wings and longish tail. Adults have a white patch between their dark wings. From below, the body is white with dark stripes and the wings are blackish. From a distance the silhouette in flight is rather similar to adult Honey buzzard. Their body is bigger compared to other eagles, like for example Short-toed eagle.

Adult Bonelli eagle. Note: big body in relation to wingspan

The Bonelli’s eagle habitat, breeding and feeding

The Bonelli’s eagle can be found in the hilly parts with rocky walls open to wooded land in the Languedoc. Outside breeding season young birds can descend to lowlands. It starts breeding in March and eggs will hatch in the beginning of April. Adults often hunt in pairs flying close to each other along the cliffs and mountain ridges. The Bonelli’s eagle is capable of tremendous stoops, similar to booted eagle, especially when hunting birds, which are often taken in flight. Their main prey consists Pigeons, Red legged partridges and rabbits.

In 2012 I’ve spotted my first Bonelli’s eagle in the Languedoc. A year later I found out where they where breeding. From that point on I followed them on a daily basis. I’ve seen them hunting Kestrel, Pigeons and Red-legged partridge. Fantastic birds. In 2017 I was fortunate to join the ringing of the chicks of this Bonelli pair. All great stuff for a raptor lover.

Population trends for the Bonelli’s eagle

The Bonelli eagle is a protected species on the IUCN red list.

According to the  IUCN:

The population is declining drastically throughout its range owing to over-use of pesticides, habitat degradation, loss of prey species, collision with power lines and persecution by hunters and pigeon fanciers (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001, Barov and Derhé 2011). However in Europe the population size is currently stable.

Maurice Riekert
I grew up in the Netherlands and have been birdwatching for 30 years. And since moving to Cessenon sur Orb, in the Languedoc, in 2011, I have rediscovered my passion for birds and wildlife in general. I had never really heard of birding in France apart from the Camargue, but in the Languedoc I now realise that we have the same species and they are much more accessible to the public. Every time I see a group of 20 Black kite migrating, which is normal over here, I still love it. Favorite birds: raptors.

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