Haliaeetus sanfordi


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

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 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.

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.

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).

Papua New Guinea; Solomon Islands
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.
Population Trend: Decreasing

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

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. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 30 August 2015.
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