White-tailed eagle Haliaeetus albicilla.

Breeding

White-tailed eagles mature and breed for the first time when they are 5-6 years old. They form monogamous, life-long pair bonds, although if one of the pair dies, the survivor will readily find a new mate.

Displays and nesting

White-tailed eagles are long-lived birds, with an average adult life span of 21 years. The oldest recorded individual was more than 32 years old.

The breeding season is characterised by frequent loud calling, especially by the male in the vicinity of the eyrie, sometimes taking the form of a duet between the pair. Eagles have a characteristic aerial courtship display which culminates in the pair locking claws mid-air, whirling earthwards in a series of spectacular cartwheels, and separating sometimes only a few feet above the ground or water and soaring upwards again.

Both birds build the nest from twigs and branches, lined with rushes and grasses. They use the nest on and off for many years, and since new material is added every time, it can attain an enormous size.

White tailed eagle

Male and female roles

The female lays two or three dull white eggs 2-5 days apart in March or April, and starts to incubate with the first egg for 38 days per egg. She does most of the incubation. The eggs hatch a few days apart. Although the chicks are quite tolerant of each other, there is competition between them, the older one being dominant.

The female does most of the brooding and direct feeding of the young, but the male takes over now and then. He provides the female and the young with all food for the first three weeks after the chicks hatch, after which the female joins in hunting. The young feed themselves in the nest when they are 5-6 weeks old. They fledge at 10-11 weeks and remain close to the nest, dependent on their parents, for a further 5-6 weeks.

White-tailed eagle