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Order Birds of prey/Accipiterformes, Family Hawks/Accipitridae

Imperial Eagle/Aquila heliaca - Male + Female

L 70-83 cm, WS 175-205 cm. Rare and local breeder in E and SE Europe in forests on steppe or open plains, also in upland forests. Food mammals, birds. Nests in tree.
IDENTIFICATION: Very large. Most similar to Golden Eagle, but tail shorter, about 3/4 or 4/5 of width of wing, and wings on average more evenly broad. Head-on silhouette often differs, too, wings held flattish, but can also be slightly raised (almost as on Golden). Often soars with tail folded. Tail is more square and has sharper corners than on Steppe Eagle. - Adult: Very dark, brown-black, with pale golden nape-shawl, paler than on Golden Eagle. Generally no pale panel on wing-coverts above, but at times an indistinct one. Flight-feathers grey, diffusely barred, underwing-coverts contrastingly black. Inner tail paler and more densely barred than on Golden, outer with broad black band at tip (at long range, two-coloured tail can recall pattern of young Golden). White patches on shoulders (sometimes small and difficult to see). - Juvenile: Body and wing-coverts sand-coloured, breast, mantle and coverts coarsely streaked cold brown; typically has contrast between streaked (at distance: dark) breast and mantle, and unmarked pale belly and lower back, respectively. Flight- and tail-feathers and upper greater coverts blackish, widely tipped whitish; inner three primaries typically contrastingly paler, visible on both surfaces. Pale primary patch insignificant, giving slightly different upperwing pattern compared with immature Steppe Eagle or the two spotted eagles. (Exceptionally shows hint of light mid-wing-band below, recalling young Steppe Eagle, but rest of characters should be conclusive.) - 1st-immature: Similar to juvenile but, owing to moult, plumage is not uniformly worn. Pale trailing edges of wings and tail somewhat less conspicuous. - 2nd-immature (from c. 3rd summer): Gradually, dark feathers grow, commencing on throat, upperbody and lesser coverts; can look quite pied in intermediate stages. Adult plumage attained from c. 5 years of age.
VOICE: Fairly vocal. Calls deeper than Golden Eagle’s. Commonly, a quick series of harsh barking notes, ‘owk-owk-owk-…’, often during dives in aerial display.

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