The scientific name of the White-bellied Sea Eagle is Haliaeetus leucogaster. In English, it is also called Whit-breasted Sea Eagle or White-bellied Fish Eagle or White-bellied Fish Hawk or simply White Eagle. The Sinhalese name is Muhudu Rajaliya, the Tamil name Kadal Ali. It is one of four species of tropical sea eagles.
The main distribution area are the coasts of Southeast Asia (though it has declined in Thailand), the Indonesian islands and Australia as well as the eastern and south-western coasts of India and all coasts of Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka, it occurs at the coasts and tanks of the eastern dryzone and at the lagoons in the western wet zone alike. The White-bellied Sea Eagle actually prefers mangrove swamps not far from the open sea but also lives at large lakes in the hinterland. For example, it is a common bird of prey at the large Senanayake Samudra reservoir in the Gal Oya National Park and also breeds at the Randenigala reservoir in the Mahaweli valley of the north-eastern hill country. Otherwise it is a very rare visitor in the highlands. A White-bellied Sea Eagle usually frequents the same locality for many years, though it can travel long distances.
The principal food (50%) of the White-bellied Sea Eagle consists of fish. It also eats water snakes and turtles, preferring aquatic animals, but it can take birds and small mammals, too. It consumes even carrion. It attacks Brahminy Kites and Ospreys to rob the smaller raptor’s prey or occasionally even steals food from its own species.
When not flying, it usually perches on a dead tree or on some rocks near the water. With up to 85cm it reaches almost the size of the dark Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) of north-eastern Europe. Like many birds of prey, the female is larger than the male, females have a wingspan of up to 220 cm and weigh up to 4.5 kg. For comparison, males weigh up to 3 kg.
The White-bellied Sea Eagle breeds from around six years of age onwards. It lives in pairs for life. It becomes noisy in the mating season, pointing its beak skyward. Then the White-bellied Sea Eagles also like to perform aerobatic shows. It breeds from December to March, the huge nest of sticks is built usually on tall tree, often on a small island or promontory. It leaves nesting sites when disturbed by human beings.
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