Ukraine’s Greater Spotted Eagle

The fact that greater spotted eagles are widely distributed does not make them any less impressive, and also hasn’t prevented their numbers from dwindling to the extent that they are recorded as ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List. According to BirdLife International, the range of greater spotted eagles covers an area of 8,961,000 square kilometers and includes Ukraine, Russia, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, mainland China, Mongolia, Poland, Finland and countries of Northern Africa. These large birds of prey are mainly found in wetlands and forested areas at lower altitudes and visitors to Ukraine’s nature reserves should keep an eye out for them in the sky as they glide on air thermals scanning the area below for their next meal.

As top predators in their ecosystem, adult greater spotted eagles are not preyed on by other birds. Humans are their greatest threat as deforestation and wetland drainage destroys their habitat, while in cultivated areas they may be seen as pests and poisoned. Eggs and nestlings are targeted by the American mink, an invasive introduced species which has drastically reduced the numbers of greater spotted eagles that could reach adulthood. As adult females only lay between 1 and 3 eggs per season, losing eggs or nestlings to predators is devastating. Moreover, the practice of Cainism (with older offspring killing their siblings) has been noted in this species. The female generally incubates the eggs and keeps the nestlings warm, while the male brings food back to the nest, but seldom stays for long before heading off again.

Measuring between 62 and 74 cm in length, with a wingspan of up to 179 cm, greater spotted eagles weigh between 1.6 and 2.5 kgs. The male is typically larger than the female. With medium brown plumage, the bird’s head and wing coverts are dark brown and a small white patch is evident on the upperwings. In a naturally functioning ecosystem, eagles perform a vital function in helping to control populations of small mammals and reptiles, and they are a magnificent sight worth looking out for while exploring the natural wonders of Ukraine.

Photo Attributed to Kaippally on Wikimedia Commons