Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Accipitriformes Accipitridae

Scientific Name: Haliaeetus sanfordi
Species Authority: Mayr, 1935
Common Name(s):
English Sanford's Sea-eagle, Solomon Fish-eagle, Forest Fish Eagle, Sanford's Fish-Eagle
Spanish Pigargo de las Salomón, Pigargo de Sanford
Taxonomic Source(s): del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International.
Taxonomic Notes: Haliaeetus sanfordi (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) is retained as a species contra Debus (2006), who proposed on the basis of molecular work, that sanfordi be treated as a subspecies of H. leucogaster. The BirdLife Taxonomic Working Group consider the considerable differences in morphology, size and proportion, as indicated by Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2001), argue in favour of retaining sanfordi as a full species.

Identification information: 70-90 cm. Only large eagle in the Solomons. Plain or mottled brown plumage. In flight, the very short tail and rather pointed wings swept upwards in a deep "V" are distinctive. Similar spp. Immature Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus has similar plumage but is smaller and has different flight action. Pied adult White-bellied Sea-eagle H. leucogaster are obvious but immatures differ only in having darker breast than belly, and brown tail (blacker in H. sanfordi) soon developing white base. Voice Series of honking cackles. Hints Common around forested islets in the Roviana and Morovo lagoons.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable D1 ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Symes, A. & Butchart, S.
Contributor(s): Dutson, G. & Hornbuckle, J.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Derhé, M., Dutson, G., Mahood, S., O'Brien, A., Stattersfield, A.
This species is classified as Vulnerable on the basis of a small estimated population which is suspected to be declining. It is judged to have distinct subpopulations, some totalling more than 250 birds. If subpopulations are found to be smaller or, conversely, that movement of birds between them means that all birds are in a single population, the species would warrant uplisting to Endangered.

Previously published Red List assessments:
2008 Vulnerable (VU)
2004 Vulnerable (VU)
2000 Vulnerable (VU)
1996 Vulnerable (VU)
1994 Vulnerable (VU)
1988 Threatened (T)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Haliaeetus sanfordi is endemic to Bougainville and Buka, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands, where it occurs on most islands, excluding Rennell, including many tiny islets and reefs (Blaber 1990, Webb 1992, Buckingham et al. 1995, Cain and Galbraith 1956, Olsen 1997, G. Dutson pers. obs. 1997-1998, Dutson 2011). Highest numbers appear to be in the New Georgia group where a minimum territory size of 10 km2 was estimated in relatively undisturbed coastal habitat on Kolombangara (Buckingham et al. 1995), but four pairs were reported on the Three Sisters (12 km2) off Makira in the 1950s (French 1957). Birds are less common inland and on larger islands, e.g. Guadalcanal and Malaita (Cain and Galbraith 1956, Buckingham et al. 1995, G. Dutson pers. obs. 1997-1998), where numbers have declined within living memory (Buckingham et al. 1995, G. Dutson pers. obs. 1997-1998).

Countries occurrence:
Papua New Guinea; Solomon Islands
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO): Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO): No
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2: 36300
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO): No
Number of Locations: 11-100
Continuing decline in number of locations: Yes
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations: No
Upper elevation limit (metres): 1500
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The population is estimated to number 250-999 mature individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate is equivalent to 375-1,499 individuals in total, rounded here to 350-1,500 individuals.

Trend Justification:  A moderate and on-going population decline is suspected on the basis of rates of habitat destruction and persecution.
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals: 250-999 Continuing decline of mature individuals: Yes
Extreme fluctuations: No Population severely fragmented: No
No. of subpopulations: 2-100 Continuing decline in subpopulations: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations: No All individuals in one subpopulation: No
No. of individuals in largest subpopulation: 1-94

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: It prefers forested coasts (G. Dutson pers. obs. 1997-1998) where it scavenges and kleptoparasitises Osprey Pandion haliaetus (Blaber 1990, Webb 1992, G. Dutson pers. obs. 1997-1998). Some pairs also hunt far inland and others, especially on the eastern islands, appear to have entirely inland ranges where they prey largely on northern common cuscus Phalanger orientalis and perhaps arboreal rats and fruit bats (Buckingham et al. 1995, Olsen 1997, J. Hornbuckle in litt. 1999). It also hunts over deforested areas where it is reported to scavenge dead mammals including feral dogs (G. Dutson pers. obs. 1997-1998).

Systems: Terrestrial; Freshwater; Marine
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat: Yes
Generation Length (years): 17.1
Movement patterns: Not a Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): It is threatened by deforestation, which has increased in intensity in recent years (G. Dutson in litt. 2007). Over-fishing and silt run-off from logging and plantations are also likely to adversely affect it. Hunting for food and occasionally sport is a recent threat with a breakdown of traditional taboos, especially in the lowlands of larger islands (Cain and Galbraith 1956, Buckingham et al. 1995, G. Dutson pers. obs. 1997-1998). It is also killed in some villages to protect poultry, cats and dogs (Olsen 1997). It may suffer from competition with humans for the favoured prey-species P. orientalis.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. It is well-known to Solomon Islanders and is often featured in environmental articles and postage stamps. It has legal protection in some provinces. Recent initiatives are promoting its protection in inland community projects (van Oosten and Wyant 1999).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey inland areas of Guadalcanal, Malaita and Makira to compare populations in areas of variable human impact. Establish a database of known and reported nests to monitor population trends. Ascertain levels of hunting. Research effects of coastal and marine environmental degradation. Promote community-based education programmes, especially in inland villages. Conduct national education programmes to promote its conservation and underline its protected status.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2012. Haliaeetus sanfordi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T22695105A38264477. . Downloaded on 05 October 2015.
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