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Sanford's Sea-eagle Haliaeetus sanfordi
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This species is classified as Vulnerable on the basis of a small estimated population which is suspected to be declining. It is judged to have distinct subpopulations, some totalling more than 250 birds. If subpopulations are found to be smaller or, conversely, that movement of birds between them means that all birds are in a single population, the species would warrant uplisting to Endangered.

Taxonomic source(s)
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.

Taxonomic note
Haliaeetus sanfordi (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) is retained as a species contra Debus (2006), who proposed on the basis of molecular work, that sanfordi be treated as a subspecies of H. leucogaster. The BirdLife Taxon

70-90 cm. Only large eagle in the Solomons. Plain or mottled brown plumage. In flight, the very short tail and rather pointed wings swept upwards in a deep "V" are distinctive. Similar spp. Immature Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus has similar plumage but is smaller and has different flight action. Pied adult White-bellied Sea-eagle H. leucogaster are obvious but immatures differ only in having darker breast than belly, and brown tail (blacker in H. sanfordi) soon developing white base. Voice Series of honking cackles. Hints Common around forested islets in the Roviana and Morovo lagoons.

Distribution and population
Haliaeetus sanfordi is endemic to Bougainville and Buka, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands, where it occurs on most islands, excluding Rennell, including many tiny islets and reefs (Blaber 1990, Webb 1992, Buckingham et al. 1995, Cain and Galbraith 1956, Olsen 1997, G. Dutson pers. obs. 1997-1998, Dutson 2011). Highest numbers appear to be in the New Georgia group where a minimum territory size of 10 km2 was estimated in relatively undisturbed coastal habitat on Kolombangara (Buckingham et al. 1995), but four pairs were reported on the Three Sisters (12 km2) off Makira in the 1950s (French 1957). Birds are less common inland and on larger islands, e.g. Guadalcanal and Malaita (Cain and Galbraith 1956, Buckingham et al. 1995, G. Dutson pers. obs. 1997-1998), where numbers have declined within living memory (Buckingham et al. 1995, G. Dutson pers. obs. 1997-1998).

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 250-999 mature individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate is equivalent to 375-1,499 individuals in total, rounded here to 350-1,500 individuals.

Trend justification
A moderate and on-going population decline is suspected on the basis of rates of habitat destruction and persecution.

It prefers forested coasts (G. Dutson pers. obs. 1997-1998) where it scavenges and kleptoparasitises Osprey Pandion haliaetus (Blaber 1990, Webb 1992, G. Dutson pers. obs. 1997-1998). Some pairs also hunt far inland and others, especially on the eastern islands, appear to have entirely inland ranges where they prey largely on northern common cuscus Phalanger orientalis and perhaps arboreal rats and fruit bats (Buckingham et al. 1995, Olsen 1997, J. Hornbuckle in litt. 1999). It also hunts over deforested areas where it is reported to scavenge dead mammals including feral dogs (G. Dutson pers. obs. 1997-1998).

It is threatened by deforestation, which has increased in intensity in recent years (G. Dutson in litt. 2007). Over-fishing and silt run-off from logging and plantations are also likely to adversely affect it. Hunting for food and occasionally sport is a recent threat with a breakdown of traditional taboos, especially in the lowlands of larger islands (Cain and Galbraith 1956, Buckingham et al. 1995, G. Dutson pers. obs. 1997-1998). It is also killed in some villages to protect poultry, cats and dogs (Olsen 1997). It may suffer from competition with humans for the favoured prey-species P. orientalis.

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. It is well-known to Solomon Islanders and is often featured in environmental articles and postage stamps. It has legal protection in some provinces. Recent initiatives are promoting its protection in inland community projects (van Oosten and Wyant 1999). Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey inland areas of Guadalcanal, Malaita and Makira to compare populations in areas of variable human impact. Establish a database of known and reported nests to monitor population trends. Ascertain levels of hunting. Research effects of coastal and marine environmental degradation. Promote community-based education programmes, especially in inland villages. Conduct national education programmes to promote its conservation and underline its protected status.

Blaber, S. J. M. 1990. A checklist and notes on the current status of birds of New Georgia, Western Province, Solomon Islands. Emu 90: 205-214.

Buckingham, D. L.; Dutson, G. C. L.; Newman, J. L. 1995. Birds of Manus, Kolombangara and Makira (San Cristobal) with notes on mammals and records from other Solomon Islands.

Cain, A. J.; Galbraith, I. C. J. 1956. Field notes on the birds of the eastern Solomon Islands. Ibis 98: 100-134, 262-295.

Dutson, G. 2011. Birds of Melanesia: Bismarcks, Solomons, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. Christopher Helm, London.

French, W. 1957. Birds of the Solomon Islands. Ibis 99: 126-130.

Olsen, J. 1997. Notes on Sanford's Sea-eagle Haliaeetus sanfordi and other raptors in the Solomon Islands. Australian Bird Watcher 17: 81-86.

van Oosten, J. R.; Wyant, D. 1999. Interim report of the bird life in the Komarindi catchment conservation area.

Webb, H. P. 1992. Field observations of the birds of Santa Isabel, Solomon Islands. Emu 92: 52-57.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Derhé, M., Dutson, G., Mahood, S., O'Brien, A., Stattersfield, A.

Dutson, G., Hornbuckle, J.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Haliaeetus sanfordi. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016.

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.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles)
Species name author Mayr, 1935
Population size 250-999 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 36,300 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species