White-tailed Eagle

Appearing in Germany's coat of arms, these apex predators are the largest eagles in Europe and have the widest wingspan of any eagle worldwide

White-tailed Eagle

Region: Arctic

Destinations: Lofoten, Fair Isle, Greenland

Name: White-tailed Eagle, Sea Eagle, Erne, White-tailed Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla)

Length: 65 to 95 cm

Weight: 3 to 7 kg

Location: Northern Europe and Asia, winter in Mid-East and Eastern Asia

Conservation status: Least Concern

Diet: Fish, birds, small mammals, carrion

Appearance: Greyish-brown with white highlights and a white tail

How do White-tailed Eagles feed?

The diet of any one White-tailed Eagle depends very much on its location in the world and on the season.

White-tailed Eagles are opportunistic, snatching food from other birds and otters. They’re excellent fishers, snatching fish near the surface of the water. They will also scavenge – either garbage or carrion from the kills of other animals. 

White-tailed Eagles have been known to attack entire colonies of smaller birds, causing the adults to scatter and abandon the young and the eggs. Because of this some smaller birds have been forced to relocate their entire colonies away from White-tailed Eagle ranges.

How fast do White-tailed Eagles fly?

White-tailed Eagles can reach speeds up to 70km per hour.

By Yathin S Krishnappa (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

What are White-tailed Eagle mating rituals like?

White-tailed Eagles mature sexually around 4 years of age.

Courtship involves aerial displays culminating in the male and female locking talons and spinning toward the earth together, breaking off only at the last moment.

The Eagles bond for life. They’ll build a nest with sticks in trees or on cliffs. Being territorial, the Eagles will often return to the same nests year after year, and once one pair dies out another pair may take up residence in the empty nest. 

The female will lay 1 to 3 eggs per year in March or April. The incubation, performed by both adults, takes about 40 days. The female takes up the majority of the protection of the chick while the male goes off to hunt and bring back food.

Once hatched, the chicks can feed themselves starting around 5 weeks old, and they fledge (grow flight-worthy feathers) at about 11 weeks of age.

How long do White-tailed Eagles live?

White-tailed Eagles live about 20 to 25 years on average.

How many White-tailed Eagles are there today?

There are over 12,000 White-tailed Eagles in Europe.

Do White-tailed Eagles have any natural predators?

White-tailed Eagles do not have any natural predators, making them an Apex Predator.

7 Wonderful White-tailed Eagle Facts

  • White-tailed Eagles are closely related to Bald Eagles. They hold the same niche in the ecology of Eurasia that the Bald Eagle holds in North America.
  • On average the White-tailed Eagle has the largest wingspan of any Eagle.
  • The largest population of White-tailed Eagles in Europe is found along the coast of Norway.
  • A White-tailed Eagle’s territory can range as far as 70km. They’re almost always located around bodies of water.
  • A White-tailed Eagle appears in Germany’s coat-of-arms and is Germany’s national bird.
  • White-tailed Eagles are the largest Eagles in Europe.
  • The White-tailed Eagles found in Europe are mainly sedentary, while the White-tailed Eagles found in Russia and northern Asia are migratory.