State Museum of Natural History
Biodiversity Data Centre

Aquila heliaca Savigny, 1809

Vernacular Name
Eastern Imperial Eagle, Imperial Eagle, Asian Imperial Eagle
Conservation status
IUCN: VU; Be (II); Bo (II); EUBD (I); CITES (II); RDBUkr: Рідкісні
Value of species
Aquila heliaca breeds in Austria, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, China, Czech Republic, Macedonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Turkey and Ukraine (Heredia 1996). Breeding has not been proved but possibly occurs in Afghanistan, Albania, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Mongolia, Pakistan, Romania, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. On passage and in winter, birds are found in the Middle East, east Africa south to Tanzania, the Arabian peninsula, the Indian Subcontinent and south and east Asia (from Thailand to Korea). The European population comprises 1,800-2,200 pairs (Demerdzhiev et al. 2011). This number is considerably higher than previous estimates of 1,051-1,619 pairs were reported in 2000 (Horváth et al. 2002) and 1,110-1,624 pairs in 2008 (BirdLife International 2008, Barov and Derhé 2011), and is partly due to increased survey effort rather than a genuinely large population increase. There was a rapid decline in Europe and probably in Asia in the second half of the 20th century. Recently the central European population (177-192 pairs mostly in Hungary and Slovakia) appears to have been increasing (Horváth et al. 2005, Demerdzhiev et al. 2011) as a result of conservation efforts, although the majority of the threats to the species persist (D. Horal in litt. 2012). In the last six years the occurrence of persecution incidents significantly increased (Horváth et al. 2011), with more than 50 Eastern Imperial Eagles poisoned in Hungary (M. Horváth in litt. 2012). The Balkan population (76-132 pairs mostly in Bulgaria and Macedonia [Demerdzhiev et al. 2011] ) is apparently stable (although the last proven breeding in Greece took place in 1993). Recent surveys in Azerbaijan found relatively high densities in the north-western plains, estimating 50-60 pairs within a 6,000 km2 study area (Horváth et al. 2007), and a total population size of 50-150 pairs (Horváth et al. 2008, Sultanov 2010). This suggests that the Caucasian population may have been underestimated (it was previously assumed that less than 50 pairs bred in Azerbaijan and Georgia) (Horváth et al. 2007). Populations in the Volga Region of Russia are relatively stable, but are suspected to decline in the future due to the presence of threats at breeding sites (M. Korepov and R. Bekmansurov in litt. 2012). At least half of the world population (and possibly more) breeds in Russia (900-1,000 pairs [Belik et al. 2002]) and Kazakhstan (750-800 pairs [Bragin 1999]). More recent surveys conducted by Karyakin et al. (2008, 2011) estimated 3,000-3,500 pairs in Russia and 3,500-4,000 pairs in Kazakhstan. However these figures have yet to be confirmed and should be treated with caution. Although these populations currently seem to be stable, the Russian population has been predicted to decline in the next three to five years [V. Galushin in litt. 1999]. In Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 1,800-2,200 breeding pairs, equating to 3,600-4,400 individuals. Recent population estimates from Russia and Kazakhstan suggest the global population may exceed 10,000 mature individuals, but in light of criticism of these estimates the population is precautionarily retained in the band 2,500-9,999 mature individuals here. This equates to 3,750-14,999 individuals in total, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals. Trend Justification: Recent reports from Russia and Kazakhstan indicate these populations may be stable, however, these reports need further confirmation. As such, the global population of this species is precautionarily estimated to remain in decline, owing to habitat loss and exploitation across its range. This is a lowland species that has been pushed to higher altitudes by persecution and habitat loss in Europe. In central and eastern Europe, it breeds in forests up to 1,000 m and also in steppe and agricultural areas with large trees, and nowadays also on electricity pylons. In the Caucasus, it occurs in steppe, lowland and riverine forests and semi-deserts. Eastern populations breed in natural steppe and agricultural habitats. Both adults and immatures of the eastern populations are migratory, wintering in the Middle East, East Africa south to Tanzania, the Arabian peninsula, the Indian Subcontinent and south and east Asia; wintering birds have also been reported in Hong Kong (China). These birds make their southward migration between September and November, returning between February and May (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). Wetlands are apparently preferred on the wintering grounds. Birds are usually seen singly or in pairs, with small groups sometimes forming on migration or at sources of food or water (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). In exceptional cases large groups of up to 200 have been known to form on autumn migration (Snow and Perrins 1998). Adults in central Europe, the Balkan peninsula, Turkey and the Caucasus are usually residents, whilst most immatures move south. Non-territorial birds often associate with other large eagles such as A. clanga and Haliaeetus albicilla on wintering and temporary settlement areas.
Book reference
  • Бокотей А. А., Соколов Н. Ю. Каталог орнітологічної колекції Державного природознавчого музею. – Львів, 2000. – 164 с.
  • Котенко Т.И., Ардамацкая Т.Б., Дубина Д.В. и др. Биоразнообразие Джарылгача: современное состояние и пути сохранения // Вісник зоології. – 2000. – Спец. випуск. – 240 с.
  • Проект організації території Чорноморського біосферного заповідника НАН України та охорони його природних комплексів. Ч. 1. К.- 2016. 300 с.

Taxonomic branch