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Changeable Hawk-eagle
 Nisaetus cirrhatus

Accipitriforme Order – Accipitridae Family

Length: 57-79 cm
Wingspan: 127-138 cm
Weight: 1300-1900 g

Changeable Hawk-eagle adult has brown upperparts, with wing coverts generally paler.
Tail is pale brown, barred with 3 or 4 narrow dark bars.
Wing feathers are brown and show a broad black tip. But we can see 4 or 5 dark bars on them. Underwing coverts present dark brown and white bars.

Fr : Aigle huppé
All : Haubenadler
Esp: Águila Azor Variable
Ital: Spizaeto variabile
Nd: Indische Kuifarend
Russe: Изменчивый орёл


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Text by Nicole Bouglouan


HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD Vol 2 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliot-Jordi Sargatal - Lynx Edicions - ISBN: 8487334156

Avibase (Lepage Denis)

The Hawk Conservancy Trust (Hilary Smith)

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Whitish breast and flanks are streaked with dark brown. Rear flanks are buff. Undertail coverts are buff with white narrow bars. Tights also are finely barred with white.
Changeable hawk eagle is a slender bird, with short and rounded wings and tail.

Nominate race has rufous head and neck, finely streaked with black.
A long black crest of four feathers is often erected on the crown. White chin and throat are streaked with black.
Eyes are yellow. Hooked bill is greyish yellow. Feet are yellow.

Both sexes are similar, but female slightly larger than male.
Young birds are often whiter-headed than adults, and underparts less marked.  

Numerous sub-species differ in plumage and size. Most of them have a fairly conspicuous crest, but others have very small crest or are crestless. We can found pale morph and dark morph in some sub-species. 

The Sri Lankan race, Spizaetus cirrhatus ceylanensis, displayed here in several pictures, has long crest as the nominate race, but the bird is smaller.   

Nisaetus cirrhatus ceylanensis

Changeable Hawk-eagle’s call is a resonant scream “kleee-klee-ek”, uttered when perched or flying. We can also hear a rapid “ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-keeee”, first short, then rising, and ending in a scream.

As other eagles, it is more vocal during the breeding season.

Changeable Hawk-eagle lives in savannahs, open lands, cultivated lands with trees, wooded streams, and in some parts, it can be found in forest and suburban edges. It is resident, and a bird of low elevation, seen up to 1500 metres. 
Changeable Hawk-eagle breeds in India, Sri Lanka, SE of Asia to Indonesia and Philippines.  

Changeable Hawk-eagle hunts mostly from concealed perch, and catches most of its preys on the ground. But some birds are caught in trees.
It often perches on the same perch, day after day, sitting upright.

In savannah, it is found along edges of large trees, near streams, hunting from there out into the open forest.

Most of them are perched within cover, and spend most of their time perched than flying.

Changeable Hawk-eagle is not a very large bird, but sometimes, it can kill large preys. It flies from one perch to another.

If disturbed, it flies away behind cover. It is usually solitary or in pair.

Nisaetus cirrhatus ceylanensis

Changeable Hawk-eagle soars over its territory. To hunt, it flies from one perch to another, performing rapid wing beats.
Wings are long and parallel-sided, and it holds them flat in flight.

Nisaetus cirrhatus ceylanensis

Changeable Hawk-eagle has a very restricted courtship display, limited to soaring in pair while calling above the breeding site.
Changeable Hawk-eagle’s nest is built in a large tree. It is a bulky nest made with sticks, with a rim and lined with fresh green leaves. This nest can be used year after year, and generally, pair has only one nest. It is located up to 40 feet in a big tree, often near a stream.
Both adults take part in nest repair, and they build the nest together.

Female lays one single white egg, slightly speckled with light reddish, but sometimes unmarked. Incubation is only by female during about 40 days. The young fledge about 65-70 days after hatching.
This species does not breed every year.

Changeable Hawk-eagle feeds on variety of preys, such as mammals, large birds, reptiles (snakes and lizards) and frogs.

Nisaetus cirrhatus ceylanensis

Changeable Hawk-eagle is among the endangered species listed, under the CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).
Some of the important threats to these birds are habitat destruction, opportunistic poaching, and illegal shooting.

Nisaetus cirrhatus ceylanensis
Nisaetus cirrhatus ceylanensis