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Systematic classification and distribution
Species: H. pennatus J. Gmelin, 1788
Pennatus because the legs are completely feathered or "shod".
Migratory species that nests in the central and southern belt of Europe and Asia, as well as in some areas of north-western Africa. The population of the western Palearctic winters in Trans-Saharan Africa up to South Africa. The post-production migration to the wintering districts takes place from August to November, the pre-production migration to the nesting districts between March and April. In Italy she is a regular migrant, but with a low number of individuals, and an irregular winter visitor.
Lesser Eagle - Hieraaetus pennatus (photo Juan lacruz)
Lesser Eagle - Hieraaetus pennatus (with public domain license via Wikimedia Commons)
Lesser Eagle - Hieraaetus pennatus (photo http://waste.ideal.es)
Length: 45-52 cm
Weight: about 800 grams
Wingspan: 100-120 cm
Of medium-large size and slender forms, it has a long tail, narrow wings, a short and hooked beak, long and feathery tars, very developed and curved claws. The sexes are similar. It has a considerable variability of plumage: the light and dark "phase" are the most frequent. Light phase: head and high neck yellow-tawny streaked with brown, mustaches and brown-blackish auricular areas, whitish forehead, brown upper parts and coverlets edged with light, light undertail, almost black remiges, dark helmsman above and light below, whitish tarsi , yellow feet, dark beak with yellow wax. Dark phase: completely brown lower parts sometimes tending to reddish or black (source www.oasicannevie.com).
It prefers preferably mixed woods interrupted by heaths, meadows, crops. In the wintering areas it settles in the wooded savannah. Usually she leads a solitary or couple life and only occasionally meets in small groups during migration. It has a fast and agile flight. Capture prey both on the ground and in the air, making quick and spectacular dives and chases. It feeds on small and medium-sized birds, small mammals and reptiles; occasionally Insects. At the beginning and during the reproductive period the couples perform spectacular acrobatic courtships during which, among other things, the female in flight turns on her stomach and tends her legs to the male, who rushes down on her . The nest is usually built on trees at a fair height from the ground and is used for several successive years. During the year, it makes only one brood and the deposition takes place in April. The 2 eggs are laid with an interval of one week from each other and are incubated by the female for about 30 days, while the male provides food for her. The chicks are nestlings and both parents contribute to their feeding. Young people leave the nest at the age of 50-55 days, fleeing between late July and August. It seems that often only one of the young can survive.