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Order Birds of prey/Accipiterformes, Family Hawks/Accipitridae

Steppe Eagle/Aquila nipalensis - Juvenile

L 62-74 cm, WS 165-190 cm (ssp. orientalis). Closely related to Tawny Eagle, and by some regarded as conspecific. Summer visitor (Mar-Oct/Nov) breeding on open, dry plains and foothills, wintering in Africa; locally numerous migrant in Middle East. Food rodents and other mammals, bird nestlings, insects (in winter especially termites), carrion, etc. Nests in tree or on ground.
IDENTIFICATION: (Ssp. orientalis.) Large to very large. Wings long and broad, tips prominently ‘fingered’. Head and neck somewhat more prominent than on the spotted eagles, and ‘arm’ proportionately longer. Other clues are heavy bill and long, conspicuous, yellow gape-flange (reaching to rear edge of eye). With experience, the more ample ‘hand’, with more prominent, longer ‘fingers’ with long 7th primary, separates from Lesser Spotted Eagle. Size helpful only for largest birds and in direct comparison. Nostrils oval (round on spotted eagles). Useful plumage details: Flight- and tail-feathers coarsely barred dark, bars well spaced and always prominent at close range, covering central ‘hand’ (‘palm’) too (spotted eagles unbarred there); barring not so obvious at a distance, but often shows on distal parts of inner primaries; terminal band wider on adult, forming dark trailing edge of wing, visible on most birds at moderate range. Chin and throat pale in all plumages. Only tips of primaries (‘fingers’) black below, ‘palm’ paler grey. On perched birds, ‘trousers’ are wider and more prominent than on other eagles, especially Lesser Spotted Eagle (which has tight ‘stockings’ only). Many have a small white patch on the centre of the back, but this can be seen on both spotted eagles as well. - Adult: Dark or mid brown with coarsely barred flight- and tail-feathers, dark trailing edge of wings unbroken; nape often diffusely paler brown. Dark birds recall Spotted Eagle, but have dark trailing edge to wings and tail, and have slightly longer wings. Pale birds recall Lesser Spotted Eagle, but, apart from structural differences (cf. above), often (many exceptions!) have back and upperwingcoverts uniformly light brown (back always darker than wing-coverts on Lesser Spotted); underbody darker than underwing; rather prominent darkish carpal area below. - Juvenile: Characteristic, mid brown with broad white band along centre of underwing (exceptionally vestigial) and broad white trailing edge to wings and tail. On some, white midwing-band expands to large cream-white patch at carpals. Upper greater coverts broadly tipped white, merging with usually prominent whitish primary patch. Uppertail-coverts with much white. Plumage uniformly fresh/worn. - Immature: Variable, but has complete or partial white midwing- band, and traces of white trailing edge to wings and tail, especially on inner primaries. Plumage unevenly worn or in moult. - Subadult: Similar to adult, but a few flight-feathers remaining without a prominent dark tip, and traces of the white midwing-band generally visible (remaining for longest on inner primary coverts).
VOICE: Rather silent. Calls basically similar to those of the two spotted eagles, but somewhat lower-pitched.

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