Hawk-Eagle

 
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Some clarification on the use of certain terms.

 Raptors or raptorial birds, quote - "are warm-blooded egg-laying vertebrates characterized by feathers and forelimbs modified as wings." Then Accipiter are hawks that visit deeply wooded areas. The birds generally has short rounded wings and long rudder like tails, to assist them in maneuver between foliages.

For the Malaysian Bird list, I have grouped all these Accipiters as one under this family heading. Those included  consist of these birds

 
1 Osprey 1 Besra
1 Hawk 1 Honey Buzzard
1 Griffons 2 Vultures
2 Goshawks 2 Sparrowhawks
6 Eagles 2 Serpent-Eagles
3Sea/Fish eagles 4 Hawk-Eagles
2 Baza 3 Buzzards
4 Harriers 3 Kites
   

From this large group of Accipiters, there are the 4 species of Hawk Eagles that we get to see in Malaysia. I have put up a dedicated page for this special birds.

Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle Hieraaetus kienerii
Changeable Hawk-Eagle Spizaetus cirrhatus
Blyth's Hawk-Eagle Spizaetus alboniger
Wallace's Hawk-Eagle Spizaetus nanus

Hawk-Eagles prey on live mammals, birds and even small reptiles. Their strategy is to maintain a lookout perched bolt upright on a unobstructed bough at some high points. Various Hawk Eagles have their preferences, there are those seeking covers among the canopy foliage of high trees standing near a forest clearing. There they wait for small birds convenient to their reach and small animals coming out into the open. The bird then swoops down, makes the strikes, and carries the prey away in its talons.

But unfortunately their hunt were hardly witnessed, I suppose less dramatic when compared to the actions of others Raptors.

 

Blyth's Hawk-Eagle Spizaetus alboniger

 

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 55 Cm. The upper part is various shades of brown and the under part is white with bold black streaks on the the throat down to the chest and then the belly with bold blackish bars. The crest on the head is not a good indicator as almost all hawk-eagle have crest. In the field we depended heavily on this point to ID a Hawk-eagle. The diagnostic marking on the Blyth's is the darker face almost black while others are brown with streaks.

 Distribution :-  This is a bird from the Islands of Sumatra and Borneo, and now a common bird in Peninsula Malaysia.
 Habitats & preferences:- The bird preferences would be forested hills within narrow belt just below the sub-montane climate.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- Common in Frasers Hills and the road leading to this resort and also the area of Gohtong Jaya in genting Highlands.
 

My personal jottings :-

The Blyth's Hawk Eagle is a prominent bird that chooses its perch on open branch. A rather majestic bird with its crest clearly displayed.

This Hawk-Eagle is a bird of the sub-montane region. Here in central peninsula, we have the chances of meeting up with the birds along the roads leading up to Frasers Hills and other hill resort areas e.g. the mountain slopes of Genting and Bukit Tinggi. It has the preference to choose very obvious spots like bare branches in middle storey and even the remote lamp post.

The bird would remain stationary even when the car stopped to take pictures. As long as the movements of the human do not stray unnaturally close to the spot where it is perched. This Hawk Eagle is most seen in certain months of the year, which I have not fully ascertained. On all occasions, always as a loner. It was photographed nesting, a good period of 90 days until the fledgling left their nest where the bird did not seem disturbed. The nest was in an accessible but open area.

 

 
Record of bird's call:-    and Video:-

Blyth's Hawk-Eagle  # 1

Blyth's Hawk-Eagle  # 2

Blyth's Hawk-Eagle  # 3

Blyth's Hawk-Eagle  # 4

Blyth's Hawk-Eagle  # 5

Blyth's Hawk-Eagle  # 6

Blyth's Hawk-Eagle  # 7

Blyth's Hawk-Eagle   # 8

Blyth's Hawk-Eagle  # 9

Blyth's Hawk-Eagle  # 10

Blyth's Hawk-Eagle   # 11

Blyth's Hawk-Eagle  # 12

Blyth's Hawk-Eagle  # 16

Blyth's Hawk-Eagle  # 17

Blyth's Hawk-Eagle  # 18

Blyth's Hawk-Eagle  # 19

Blyth's Hawk-Eagle  # 20

Blyth's Hawk-Eagle  # 21

 

Changeable Hawk-Eagle   Spizaetus cirrhatus limnaetus

 

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 70 Cm. This is a much longer bird with longer tail. The bird projects 2 body profile and 3 colors during its lifetime. Therefore it possible that we could be looking at the same bird in different forms. Generally the bird could be describe having a brown upper part and white under part with dark streaks on the breast and belly. Other color it may be completely white with dark brown wings  or completely blackish. There is no crest on this bird. The bird comes in 3 colors - i.e. Normal, pale morph and dark morph.

 Distribution :-  The bird is resident in India, then a geographical belt east down the Andaman coast. Another zone the Greater Sundas and Philippines.
 Habitats & preferences:- The bird is a lowland forest bird but sometimes may go up to the sub-montane region.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- The bird could be spotted within the forested area and also at the edge. I have met the bird in a variety of environment including the mangrove forest. So there is no need to mention a geographical region where the bird is most often seen.
 

My personal jottings :-

Normal passerines, I could always stayed on watch the bird or I could return at another date chances are the bird would still be there. I could even go elsewhere and find another bird of the same species for me to continue my observation. I say this remark because for the Changeable Haw-Eagle, I just couldn't have this privilege. The bird may not return to the same spot. The bird has a territory of X number square kilometers and could be anywhere within the area. To know the bird well, requires many more years of following through and the little we could do is read from books and journals.

The Changeable Hawk Eagle has better known sub-species, the Crested Hawk Eagle which populate India and Ceylon.

The unique point about this birds is that the bird is dimorphic, a bird that could developed as 2 different colored birds. The dark morph is chocolate-brown all over, tail base might appear lighter, then a light colored white morph. The bird has evolved through a complicated phylogeny that makes exact ID difficult. Both sexes are identical though the female may be marginally larger. We are having the crestless sub-species though a tiny "crest" is visible at times.

 
Record of bird's call:-    and Video:-

Changeable Hawk-Eagle  # 1

dark morph-  Hawk-Eagle  # 2

pale morph - Hawk-Eagle  # 3

Changeable Hawk-Eagle  # 4

Changeable Hawk-Eagle  # 5

Changeable Hawk-Eagle  # 6

Changeable Hawk-Eagle  # 7

Changeable Hawk-Eagle   # 8

Changeable Hawk-Eagle  # 9

Changeable Hawk-Eagle  # 10

Changeable Hawk-Eagle   # 11

Changeable Hawk-Eagle  # 12

Changeable Hawk-Eagle  # 16

Changeable Hawk-Eagle  # 17

Changeable Hawk-Eagle  # 18

Changeable Hawk-Eagle  # 19

Changeable Hawk-Eagle  # 20

Changeable Hawk-Eagle  # 21

 

Hawk Eagles are not easy to find, but in the right places and season, their presence in the area is obvious. So far, all those birds seen were perched in very open areas, very few birds and odd occasions. The low number of sightings  gives the impression that they are scare and if available would show up open vantage points. In reality, perhaps more Hawk Eagles preferred concealed perches and were not detected. Just like the way they hunt was hardly witnessed, there must be much more birds in the area and never accounted for.

Quite often in our birding trips, there were encounters with Eagles making a fly past and then landed among the canopy. Sadly, the spots where they perched were never located.