email a friend
printable version
Greater Spotted Eagle Clanga clanga
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
Please email us with any relevant information

This species has a small population which appears to be declining owing to extensive habitat loss and persistent persecution. It is therefore listed as Vulnerable.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _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.

Taxonomic note
Clanga clanga (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) was previously placed in the genus Aquila.

Aquila clanga Pallas, 1811

62-74 cm. Medium-sized, dark eagle. Adult dark brown with slightly paler flight feathers. Underwing-coverts generally darker than flight feathers. Bands of white spots across upperwing of juveniles. In gliding flight, often depresses "hands". Similar spp. Lesser Spotted Eagle A. pomarina is slightly smaller, narrower winged and less stocky. Plumage generally paler and most show contrast between paler underwing and upperwing-coverts and darker flight feathers. Confusion is also possible with adult Steppe Eagle A. nipalenis, Tawny Eagle A. rapax and Eastern Imperial Eagle A. heliaca. Voice Barking kyak during breeding.

Distribution and population
Aquila clanga occupies a fragmented range, breeding in Estonia (Lõhmus 1998), Poland, Belarus, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, mainland China and Mongolia (Meyburg et al. 1999), and apparently regularly in tiny numbers in Pakistan and north-west India (BirdLife International 2001), with some individuals possibly still breeding in Finland, Latvia and Lithuania (Database of the Lithuanian Ornithological Society 1999), although this has not been confirmed recently. Passage or wintering birds occur in small numbers over a vast area, including central and eastern Europe, North Africa, East Africa, the Middle East, the Arabian peninsula, the Indian Subcontinent, south Asia and South-East Asia. Wintering birds have also been reported in Hong Kong (China). The population probably numbers fewer than 10,000 mature individuals with Russia holding 2,800-3,000 pairs. The European population is probably no more than 900 pairs (with c.150 pairs in Belarus). Numbers appear to have declined in the western half of its range and in some parts of its Asian range. However, long-term trends are difficult to assess owing to identification problems.

Population justification
In Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 810-1,100 breeding pairs, equating to 2,430-3,300 individuals (BirdLife International 2004). Europe forms 25-49% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 5,000-13,200 individuals in total, roughly equating to 3,300-8,800 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed. National population estimates include: c.100-10,000 breeding pairs, c.50-1,000 individuals on migration and c.50-1,000 wintering individuals in China; < c.50 individuals on migration and < c.50 wintering individuals in Taiwan and c.100-10,000 breeding pairs and c.50-1,000 individuals on migration in Russia (Brazil 2009).

Trend justification
This species is suspected to have undergone at least a moderately rapid decline over the last three generations as a result of habitat loss and degradation throughout its breeding and wintering ranges, together with the effects of disturbance, persecution and competition with other predators.

It occurs in lowland forests near wetlands, nesting in different types of (generally tall) trees, depending on local conditions. It feeds on unretrieved quarry, small mammals, waterbirds, frogs and snakes, hunting over swamps, wet meadows and, in Europe, over extensively managed agricultural land (A. Lõhmus in litt. 1999); birds soar to c.100 m high when hunting. It is a migratory species, with birds leaving their breeding grounds in October and November to winter in southern Europe, southern Asia and north-east Africa (del Hoyo et al. 1994). They tend to return in February and March. Birds migrate on a broad front, tending to pass in singles, twos and threes with the occasional larger group (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). They do not concentrate at bottleneck sites to the extent of many other raptors such as A. pomarina (del Hoyo et al. 1994).

There is strong evidence of hybridisation between this species and Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina (Bergmanis et al. 1997, Lohmus & Vali 2001, Dombrovski 2002, Vali et al. 2010). In some European countries mixed pairs can constitute 50% of Greater Spotted Eagle pairs (Maciorowski and Mizera 2010) or even more (Vali 2011). It is unclear whether this represents a new phenomenon or a conservation concern, but A. pomarina is far more numerous than A. clanga in the zone of overlap, and the range of A. pomarina appears to be spreading east, further into the range of A. clanga. Other key threats are habitat destruction and disturbance, also poaching and electrocution can be considered important. Suitable habitat mosaics have been lost as a result of afforestation and wetland drainage. In eastern Europe, agricultural intensification and the abandonment of traditional floodplain management have reduced habitat quality (A. Lõhmus in litt. 1999). Birds are intolerant of permanent human presence in their territories. Forestry operations are a major cause of disturbance. Shooting is a threat in Russia, the Mediterranean, South-East Asia and Africa (P. D. Round in litt. 1998, P. Mirski in litt. 2012), together with deliberate and accidental poisoning across much of its range. In Israel, poisoning and electrocution are major causes for casualties of wintering population (Perlman and Granit 2012).

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II, CMS Appendix I and II. It is legally protected in Belarus, Estonia, France, Greece, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Russia and nominally in Thailand. An International Lesser and Greater Spotted Eagle Working Group has been established. A European action plan was published in 2000 (Meyburg et al. 1999). The first national census was conducted in Belarus during 2000-2002. Research into hybridisation and habitat requirements began in Belarus in 2003. National Action Plans for the species have been produced in Belarus (Dombrovski et al. (2002), Estonia and Ukraine (Domashevsky 2000). Site protection measures have been initiated at key Belarusian, Polish and Estonian sites, including restricting forestry activities at nest sites during the breeding season. Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey range and population. Establish long-term monitoring schemes to improve understanding of population trends. Improve understanding of breeding habitat requirements. Protect breeding areas from drainage and rising of infrastructure. Maintain traditional wet meadows. Regulate forestry to minimise disturbance and protect potential nesting trees. Investigate potential threat of hybridisation with A. pomarina. Prevent illegal shooting, poisoning and electrocution. Investigate lead poisoning from feeding on quarry. Raise awareness.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Bergmanis U, Petrinš A, Strazds M, Krams I. 1997. Possible case of hybridization of the Lesser Spotted eagle and the Greater Spotted eagle in Eastern Latvia. Putni Daba 3: 2-6.

BirdLife International. 2001. Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

BirdLife International. 2004. Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Brazil, M. 2009. Birds of East Asia: eastern China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, eastern Russia. Christopher Helm, London.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. 1994. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Domashevsky S.V. 2000. National Action Plan for the conservation of the Great Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga) and Lesser Spotted Eagle (A. pomarina) in Ukraine. In: O. Mykytyuk (ed.), National Action Plans on conservation of globally threatened bird species. pp. 122 – 132 [in Ukrainian]. SoftART, Kyiv.

Dombrovski, V. C. 2002. Hybridization of Lesser and Greater Spotted Eagles - (Aquila pomarina et A. clanga) in Belarus: rules or exception? Subbuteo 5(1): 23-31.

Dombrovski, V., Ch.; Tishechkin, A. K.; Ivanovski, V. V. 2002. Belarus' National Action Plan for Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga).

Ferguson-Lees, J.; Christie, D. A. 2001. Raptors of the world. Christopher Helm, London.

Lõhmus A, Väli Ü. 2001. Interbreeding of the Greater Aquila clanga and Lesser Spotted Eagle A. pomarina. Acta Ornithoecologica 4: 377–384.

Lohmus, A. 1998. Numbers of the Greater Spotted Eagle and the Lesser Spotted Eagle in Estonia. Hirundo 11: 24-34.

Maciorowski G., Mizera T. 2010. Conservations and studies on Greater Spotted Eagle in Poland - LIFE project. Studia i materiały CEPL w Rogowie. 25: 181-190 (in Polish with English summary).

Mallalieu, M. 2007. Greater Spotted Eagles Aquila clanga in central Thailand. Forktail: 167-170.

Meyburg, B.-U.; Haraszthy, L.; Strazds, M.; Schäffer, N. 1999. European species action plan for Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga).

Perlman, Y. And Granit, B. 2012. Wintering Raptors in Israel 2010/11. Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (In Hebrew).

Väli Ü. 2011. Numbers and hybrydization of spotted eagles in Estonia as revealed by country-wide field observations and genetic analysis. Estonian Journal of Ecology 60: 143-154.

Väli Ü., Dombrovski V., Treinys R., Bergmanis U., Daróczi S., Dravecky M., Ivanovsky V., Lontkowski J., Maciorowski G., Meyburg B.U., Mizera T., Zeitz R., Ellegren H. 2010. Wide-spread hybridization between the Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga and the Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina (Aves: Accipitriformes) in Europe. Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 100: 725-736.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Detailed species accounts from the Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001).

European Species Action Plan

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
Bird, J., Butchart, S., Capper, D., Derhé, M., Gilroy, J., Peet, N., Pilgrim, J., Shutes, S., Taylor, J., Khwaja, N.

Hilton, G., Löhmas, A., Round, P., Perlman, Y., Mirski, P.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Clanga clanga. Downloaded from on 21/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 21/10/2016.

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 Pallas, 1811
Population size 3300-8800 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 12,800,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- 2015 European Red List assessment