This species has a small global population, and is likely to be undergoing continuing declines, primarily as a result of habitat loss and degradation, adult mortality through persecution and collision with powerlines, nest robbing and prey depletion. It is therefore listed as Vulnerable. More information is needed to confirm the size and trends of populations in Asia. Should this information show that the population is larger than currently thought, or declining at a more moderate rate, the species will warrant downlisting to a lower threat category.
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: #http://www.aerc.eu/DOCS/Bird_taxa_of _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
75-84 cm. Large, dark eagle. Generally dark brown with white scapular markings and pale golden-cream nape. Grey base to tail. Juvenile brown fading to pale buff with dark flight feathers. Shows flat wings in flight. Similar spp. Golden Eagle A. chrysaetos is paler with less obviously bi-coloured tail. Holds wings in flattened "V" shape. Steppe Eagle A. nipalensis lacks pale rusty yellow ventral area, bi-coloured tail and pale scapulars. Voice Repeated barking.
Recent reports from Russia and Kazakhstan indicate these populations may be stable, however, these reports need further confirmation. As such, the global population of this species is precautionarily estimated to remain in decline, owing to habitat loss and exploitation across its range.
This is a lowland species that has been pushed to higher altitudes by persecution and habitat loss in Europe. In central and eastern Europe, it breeds in forests up to 1,000 m and also in steppe and agricultural areas with large trees, and nowadays also on electricity pylons. In the Caucasus, it occurs in steppe, lowland and riverine forests and semi-deserts. Eastern populations breed in natural steppe and agricultural habitats. Both adults and immatures of the eastern populations are migratory, wintering in the Middle East, East Africa south to Tanzania, the Arabian peninsula, the Indian Subcontinent and south and east Asia; wintering birds have also been reported in Hong Kong (China). These birds make their southward migration between September and November, returning between February and May (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). Wetlands are apparently preferred on the wintering grounds. Birds are usually seen singly or in pairs, with small groups sometimes forming on migration or at sources of food or water (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). In exceptional cases large groups of up to 200 have been known to form on autumn migration (Snow and Perrins 1998). Adults in central Europe, the Balkan peninsula, Turkey and the Caucasus are usually residents, whilst most immatures move south. Non-territorial birds often associate with other large eagles such as A. clanga and Haliaeetus albicilla on wintering and temporary settlement areas.
Breeding sites are threatened primarily by intensive forestry in the mountains, and by the shortage of large indigenous trees in the lowlands (e.g. illegal tree cutting affected several pairs in Russia [Karyakin et al. 2009a] and Bulgaria). Other threats are loss and alteration of feeding habitats, shortages of small and medium-sized prey species (particularly ground-squirrels Spermophilus spp.), human disturbance of breeding sites, nest robbing and illegal trade, shooting, poisoning and electrocution by powerlines. An average of c.450 Eastern Imperial Eagles were killed by powerlines during the 2009 breeding season in the Altai region – 25% of the total population of the region (Karyakin et al. 2009b). Habitat alterations associated with agricultural expansion threaten historical and potential breeding sites in former range countries. Hunting, poisoning, prey depletion and other mortality factors are also likely to pose threats along migration routes and in wintering areas. Competition for nest sites with Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga has been reported in the Altai region, Russia (Karyakin et al. 2009c).
Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I and II. CMS Appendix I and II. It is legally protected in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Turkey and Ukraine. The Eastern Imperial Eagle Working Group was established in 1990. A European action plan was published in 1996 and its implementation reviewed in 2010 (Barov and Derhé 2011). Regional Action Plans have been published for the Balkan Peninsula (Stoychev et al. 2004) and for the Southern Caucasus (Horváth et al. 2006). The Eastern Imperial Eagle Management Guidelines for Hungary were published in 2005 and are under preparation for Slovakia (Kovács et al. 2006). Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys in Asia (particularly Russia and Kazakhstan) to determine population size and trends. Conduct surveys to identify breeding and wintering sites, and migration routes. Improve protection of species and sites. Implement beneficial forestry policies. Maintain large trees in open land and protect old woodland on slopes (B. Hallmann in litt. 1999). Prevent mortality from nest robbing, nest destruction, illegal trade, poisoning and electrocution on medium-voltage powerlines, as well as persecution in wintering grounds and migratory routes. Maintain feeding habitats by preserving traditional land use. Increase the availability of prey species by habitat management. Raise public awareness and involve stakeholders in conservation activities.
Related state of the world's birds case studies
Anon. 2008. The 6th International Conference on the Conservation of the Eastern Imperial Eagle. Resolution, 4-7 September 2008, Topolovgrad, Bulgaria. Raptors Conservation: 14-16.
Bagyura, J.; Szitta, T.; Haraszthy, L.; FirmÃ¡nszky, G.; ViszlÃ³, L.; KovÃ¡cs, A.; Demeter, I.; HorvÃ¡th, M. 2002. Population increase of Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca) in Hungary between 1980 and 2000. Aquila 107-108: 133-144.
Barov, B and DerhÃ©, M. A. 2011. Review of The Implementation Of Species Action Plans for Threatened Birds in the European Union 2004-2010. Final report. BirdLife International For the European Commission.
Belik, V. P.; Galushin, V. M. 1996. Final report on the project Imperial Eagle inventory in European Russia, 1996.
Belik, V.; Galushin, V.; Bogomolov, D. 2002. Results of the Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca) Project in Russia during 1996 and 1997. Aquila 107-108: 177-181.
BirdLife International. 2004. Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.
BirdLife International. 2008. Species factsheet: Aquila heliaca.. Available at: http://www.birdlife.org.
Bragin, E. A. 1999. Status of the Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca in Kazakhstan. Buteo 1999: 16.
Brazil, M. 2009. Birds of East Asia: eastern China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, eastern Russia. Christopher Helm, London.
Demerdzhiev, D., Horváth, M., Kovács, A., Stoychev, S. and Karyakin, I. 2011. Status and Population Trend of the Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca) in Europe in the Period 2000-2010. Acta Zoologica Bulgarica. Suppl. 3: 5-14.
Ferguson-Lees, J.; Christie, D. A. 2001. Raptors of the world. Christopher Helm, London.
Heredia, B. 1996. International action plan for the Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca). In: Heredia, B.; Rose, L.; Painter, M. (ed.), Globally threatened birds in Europe: action plans, pp. 159-174. Council of Europe, and BirdLife International, Strasbourg.
HorvÃ¡th M., I. FatÃ©r, E. Sultanov, S. Isayevand T. Karimov. 2008. Status of imperial eagles in North-western Azerbaijan: population size, density, breeding success and prey composition. Proceeding of 6th International Conference on the Conservation of the Eastern Imperial Eagle 5-7 September 2008, Topolovgrad, Bulgaria.
HorvÃ¡th, M.; KovÃ¡cs, A.; Demeter, I. 2005. The biology of the Imperial Eagle in the Carpathian Basin. In: KovÃ¡cs, A., Demeter, I., HorvÃ¡th, M., FÃ¼lÃ¶p, Gy., Frank, T., SzilvÃ¡csku, Zs (ed.), Imperial Eagle Management Guidelines, MME/BirdLife Hungary, Budapest.
HorvÃ¡th, M.; KovÃ¡cs, A.; Gallo-Orsi, U. 2006. Action Plan for Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca) in the Southern-Caucasus.
Horvath, M., Fater, I., Isayev, S. Karimov, T. & Sultanov, E. 2007. Imperial Eagle population survey in north-western Azerbaijan (April 2007) - Project Report..
Horvath, M.; Haraszthy, L.; Bagyura, J.; Kovacs, A. 2002. Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca) populations in Europe. Aquila 107-108: 193-204.
Karyakin I., Niklenko, E., Levin, A. and Kovalenko, A. 2011. Imperial Eagle in Russia and Kazakhstan: Population status and trends. Acta zoologica bulgarica Supplementum 3: 95-104. (In English, Bulgarian summary).
Karyakin, I. V.; Nikolenko, E. G.; Bekmansurov, R. H. 2009. Imperial Eagle in the Altai Mountains. Raptors Conservation: 66-79.
Karyakin, I. V.; Nikolenko, E. G.; Bekmansurov, R. H. 2009. Results of monitoring of Greater Spotted Eagle and Imperial Eagle breeding grounds in the Altai pine forests in 2009, Russia. Raptor Research 17: 125-130.
Karyakin, I. V.; Nikolenko, E. G.; Vazhov, S. V.; Bekmansurov, R. H. 2009. Raptor electrocution in the Altai region: results of surveys in 2009, Russia. Raptors Conservation 16: 45-64.
Karyakin, I. V.; Nikolenko, E. N.; Levin, A. S.; Kovalenko, A. V. 2008. Imperial Eagle in Russia and Kazakhstan: population status and trends. Raptors Conservation: 18-27.
KovÃ¡cs, A.; Demeter, I.; HorvÃ¡th, M.; FÃ¼lÃ¶p, Gy.; Frank, T.; SzilvÃ¡csku, Zs. 2005. Imperial Eagle management guidelines.
Magyar, G.; Hadarics, T.; Waliczky, Z.; Schmidt, A.; Nagy, T.; Bankovics, A. 1998. [an annotated list of the birds of Hungary] Magyarorszag madarainak nevjegyzeke. BirdLife Hungary, Budapest.
Snow, D. W.; Perrins, C. M. 1998. The Birds of the Western Palearctic vol. 1: Non-Passerines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Stoychev, S.; Zeitz, R.; Grubac, B. 2004. Plan for the Conservation of the Imperial Eagle in the Balkan Peninsula.
Sultanov, E. 2010. Research study of Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca) population in Azerbaijan. . Project Report. Azerbaijan Ornithological Society, Baku.
Further web sources of information
Detailed regional assessment and species account from the European Red List of Birds (BirdLife International, 2015)
Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Butchart, S., Derhé, M., Gilroy, J., Harding, M., Pople, R., Khwaja, N.
Galushin, V., Hallmann, B., Horváth, M., Katzner, T., Kovács, A., Stoychev, S., Bekmansurov, R., Korepov, M., Horal, D., Moshkin, A., Gradev, G., Velevski, M., Stanislav, V., Ryabtsev, V., Mátyás, P.
BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Aquila heliaca. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 29/07/2015. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2015) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 29/07/2015.
This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.
To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife
To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.
Additional resources for this species
|Current IUCN Red List category||Vulnerable|
|Family||Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles)|
|Species name author||Savigny, 1809|
|Population size||2500-9999 mature individuals|
|Distribution size (breeding/resident)||9,440,000 km2|
|Links to further information|
- Additional Information on this species|
- 2015 European Red List assessment