Aquila nipalensis 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Accipitriformes Accipitridae

Scientific Name: Aquila nipalensis
Species Authority: Hodgson, 1833
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Steppe Eagle
French Aigle des steppes
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.
Identification information: 72-81 cm, wingspan 160-200 cm. Dark-brown, medium-large Aquila. Juvenile usually has broad whitish band along greater underwing coverts. Primaries banded, iris brown (Meyburg and Boesman 2013). Similar spp. Larger than Tawny Eagle A. rapax and separated by width and length of gape. Generally darker than Lesser Spotted Eagle A. pomarina and paler than Greater Spotted Eagle A. clanga and has oval nostrils rather than round as in both these species.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered A2abcd+3bcd+4abcd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2015-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Horvath, M., Karyakin, I., Perlman, Y. & Vyas, V.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Harding, M., Khwaja, N., Symes, A., Ashpole, J, Wright, L, Pople, R., Burfield, I., Ieronymidou, C. & Wheatley, H.
This species has undergone extremely rapid population declines within its European range. The majority of its range lies outside Europe where it was not thought to be declining at a sufficiently rapid rate to approach the threshold for Vulnerable. However recent information suggests that the population outside Europe may be exposed to greater threats than was previously thought and has also undergone very rapid recent declines across much of the range. It is therefore classified as Endangered.

Previously published Red List assessments:
2013 Least Concern (LC)
2012 Least Concern (LC)
2011 Least Concern (LC)
2009 Least Concern (LC)
2008 Least Concern (LC)
2004 Least Concern (LC)
2000 Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
1994 Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
1988 Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species breeds east of 42°E in European Russia from the Astrakhan to Stavropol regions (Hagermeijer and Blair 1997), across Kazakhstan into Kyrgyzstan, China and Mongolia (Meyburg and Boesman 2013). It also breeds in a small area of Turkey. It formerly bred in Moldova, Romania and Ukraine. Birds from European Russia, eastern Kazakhstan and Turkey (A. n. orientalis) winter in the Middle East, Arabia and east and southern Africa (Meyburg and Boesman 2013). Birds from Altai, Siberia eastwards (A. n. nipalensis) winter mainly in south and south-east Asia.
Countries occurrence:
Afghanistan; Albania; Armenia (Armenia); Azerbaijan; Bahrain; Bangladesh; Bhutan; Botswana; Bulgaria; China; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Djibouti; Egypt; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Georgia; Greece; India; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Israel; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Kuwait; Kyrgyzstan; Lebanon; Malawi; Malaysia; Mongolia; Myanmar; Namibia; Nepal; Oman; Pakistan; Palestinian Territory, Occupied; Qatar; Russian Federation; Rwanda; Saudi Arabia; Singapore; South Africa; South Sudan; Sudan; Swaziland; Syrian Arab Republic; Tajikistan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Thailand; Turkey; Turkmenistan; Uganda; Ukraine; United Arab Emirates; Uzbekistan; Viet Nam; Yemen; Zambia; Zimbabwe
Regionally extinct:
Moldova; Romania
Angola (Angola); Belarus; Burundi; Cameroon; Chad; Croatia; Czech Republic; Denmark; Estonia; Finland; France; Germany; Hungary; Italy; Korea, Democratic People's Republic of; Mali; Netherlands; Niger; Nigeria; Norway; Poland; Slovakia; Somalia; Spain; Sweden; Tunisia
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO): No
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2: 6580000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO): No
Continuing decline in number of locations: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations: No
Upper elevation limit (metres): 3000
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Even assuming densities as low as one pair / 100 km2 across eight million km2 range there would be 80,000 pairs or 160,000 mature individuals (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). The European population is estimated at 800-1,200 pairs, which equates to 1,600-2,400 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms approximately 9% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 17,800-26,700 mature individuals. The estimate based on the European population is much lower than the 160,000 mature individuals estimated by Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2001) and may be explained by differing densities of the species across its range. Combined totals from across the whole range estimate the number of pairs at 31,372 (26,014-36,731) which equates to 62,744 (52,028-73,462) mature individuals or 94,116 (78,042-110,193) individuals (I. Karyakin in litt. 2015). The population is placed in the band 100,000 to 499,999 mature individuals.

Trend Justification:  The population is declining owing to habitat destruction (especially conversion of steppe into agricultural land), persecution, and collisions with power lines. Locally populations are declining owing to heavy predation of chicks (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). In Europe the population size is estimated to be decreasing by 80% or more in 49.8 years (three generations) (BirdLife International 2015) however the European population represents only a small proportion of the global population. Combined totals from across the species's range suggest a decline of 58.6% between 1997-2011 and 2013-2015 (I. Karyakin in litt. 2015).

Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals: 100000-499999 Continuing decline of mature individuals: Yes
Extreme fluctuations: No Population severely fragmented: No
Continuing decline in subpopulations: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations: No All individuals in one subpopulation: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: It inhabits areas of steppe and semi-desert, and is recorded breeding up to 2,300 m in mountainous regions (del Hoyo et al. 1994). It feeds mainly on small mammals on its breeding grounds, with susliks forming the vast majority of its diet in some areas; when wintering it appears to feed mainly on mole rats in East Africa, and termites and Red-billed Quelea Quelea quelea predominate in southern Africa (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Nests have traditionally been built as large platforms on the ground, although recent habitat alterations seem to have caused a shift to building a few metres higher in bushes or trees (del Hoyo et al. 1994). It also nests on artificial structures. The species is migratory, with birds wintering in south-east Africa and southern Asia (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Migrants leave their breeding grounds between August and October, returning between January and May (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). It avoids sea crossings and thus forms large concentrations at bottleneck sites (del Hoyo et al. 1994, Snow and Perrins 1998, Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001).
Systems: Terrestrial
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat: Unknown
Generation Length (years): 16.6
Movement patterns: Full Migrant
Congregatory: Congregatory (and dispersive)

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The species has declined in the west of its breeding range, including extirpation from Romania, Moldova and Ukraine, as a result of the conversion of steppes to agricultural land combined with direct persecution (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001, Meyburg and Boesman 2013). It is also adversely affected by power lines and is very highly vulnerable to the impacts of potential wind energy developments (Strix 2012, Meyburg and Boesman 2013). It was recently found to be the raptor most frequently electrocuted by power lines in a study in western Kazakhstan (Levin and Kurkin 2013). Young eagles are taken out of the nest in order to sell them to western European countries (Mebs and Schmidt 2006). A decline in the number of birds and a reduction in the proportion of juveniles migrating over Eilat, Israel began immediately after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986, leading Yosef and Fornadari (2004) to suggest that the species may have been affected by radioactive contamination. This species is vulnerable to the veterinary drug diclofenac (Sharma et al. 2014).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation and Research Actions Underway
CMS Appendix II. CITES Appendix II. Bern Convention Appendix II. There are currently no conservation actions known to be in place for this species. 

Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
Protect remaining grassland steppes in Europe and the rest of its range. Dangerous electric powerline constructions should be replaced or fitted with protective devices. Educate herdsmen and other locals in the ecological value and vulnerability of this species (Tucker and Heath 1994). Continue research into the impacts of diclofenac and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to establish the sensitivity of this species to veterinary drugs. Promote a ban on the use of diclofenac in Europe.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2015. Aquila nipalensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T22696038A80351871. . Downloaded on 02 December 2015.
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