|I took some photos of an Imperial Eagle together with a
Greater Spotted Eagle in a tree at Basai (Haryana, north India) in December
2002. It was several months later that I was looking at the photos again and
began to doubt the identification of the "spotted" Eagle. Whilst obviously
either Greater Spotted (A. clanga) or Indian Spotted (A. hastata), it looks
relatively too long-tailed for the former, and slimmer and lighter in
overall build. The legs, or at least what can be seen of them, are thin but
completely feathered and the gape line appears to extend close to the rear
of the eye instead of ending centrally. It also looks quite thick and
I'm not clear of other useful features to separate the two and there
seems to be a lot of irrelevant and misleading information about this.
Comments would be welcomed from anyone who has more (i.e. any!) experience
of Indian Spotted.
Comments received so far include a note from Sudhir Vyas on an eagle seen
in the 1970s:
- I would hesitate to pronounce on Indian Spotted Eagles for obvious
reasons. But your photograph brought back memories of an Eagle that nested
in Kanpur, in shisham (Dalbergia) woodland near the IIT campus, that I
observed closely on several occasions in the 1970s. I do not have my notes
handy, but have vivid memory of the juvenile that fledged from the nest,
which approximated, in shape and colour, to the bird in your photograph.
The very dark head and body with prominent fleshy yellow gape (can't
comment on its length), thin feathered legs, tail and body proportions
were very similar, and particularly the pattern of the closed upper wing
with broad whitish fringes to greater upperwing coverts and pale mottling
elsewhere. My juvenile also showed narrow white uppertail coverts, and was
very confiding even after fledging, allowing close observation when
perched. At that time, I (quite inexperienced in these frontiers of aquila
id) had put it down tentatively as "Lesser Spotted"; it was obviously not
a Tawny, the adults did not show the underwing pattern of Spotted and the
habitat was not right for Spotted either.
Other identification comments include:
- I would tend to the view that it is an Indian Spotted for the reasons
you mention, but I really haven't been able to get to the bottom of what
the distinguishing characters really are. There's still too much confusion
about them. (Krys Kazmierczak)
- I believe that this is a Greater Spotted Eagle. Because of the large
head and long nape feathers. Indian Spotted Eagle has a more rounded head.
I don't think that the gape is particularly large. Further, the tips of
the secondaries are pale, another character of juvenile Greater Spotted.
The conclusion so far is probably a Greater Spotted, based on Bill
Clark's comments above. More opinions would be helpful.
Mike Prince, August 2003.