White-tailed eagle adult stooping for fish

Behaviour

Learn about white tailed eagles and how they behave.

Breeding behaviour

Adults are typically solitary or in pairs. Resident birds often roost and loaf close to the nest throughout the year. Juveniles sometimes gather in loose associations of up to 10 individuals. Concentrations of 30-40 have been recorded at roosts and at locally abundant food sources.

Pair-bond is strictly monogamous and life-long, although if one of the pair dies, replacement can occur quickly. Age of initial pair formation is probably around 5 years of age when a permanent home-range is first chosen.

Juvenile White-tailed Eagle at The RSPB East Scotland Sea Eagle Project.

Eagle competition

In the UK the golden eagle and white-tailed eagle live in mutually exclusive home-ranges, unlike in Norway, where the two species can readily coexist. The diets of the two species are very similar, and there is prominent competition for food between the species.

When in direct competition for carcasses in the winter, golden eagles are strongly dominant over white-tailed eagles. Being stronger fliers, golden eagles also prevail in aerial conflicts. However, despite being inferior in direct competition, white-tailed eagle is overall the dominant species of the two, and can oust golden eagles from their home ranges. They are more tenacious, have a wider diet and can survive on less food than the golden eagle.

Competition for nest sites is unlikely to be important, since white-tailed eagles nest preferentially in trees and golden eagles on cliff ledges. The great similarity in the diet and the apparent inability of the two eagles to coexist in western Scotland has been brought about by several centuries of deforestation and overgrazing, which has impoverished and degraded the habitat, reducing its ability to support higher densities of these top predators.

White-tailed eagle Haliaeetus albicilla.