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Sanford's Sea Eagle

Haliaeetus sanfordi

Sanford's sea eagle, also known as Sanford's fish eagle or the Solomon eagle, is a majestic bird of prey endemic to the Solomon Islands archipelago. With a length ranging from 70 to 90 centimeters and a wingspan of 165 to 185 centimeters, it is the only large predator in its habitat. The eagle's weight varies between 1.1 and 2.7 kilograms. Its plumage is a tapestry of earthy hues, with a whitish brown to bright brown head and neck, while the underparts are a mix of brown to reddish brown and dark brown. The upperparts are cloaked in darkish brown to gray-black feathers. Its eyes are a piercing bright brown, and uniquely among its kin, it sports an entirely dark tail throughout its life.

Identification Tips

To identify Sanford's sea eagle, look for its sizeable stature and distinctive plumage. The dark tail is a key feature that sets it apart from other sea eagles, which typically have lighter tails. The bright brown eyes and the varying shades of brown across its body are also characteristic.


This sea eagle is found in coastal forests and lakes, soaring up to an altitude of about 1500 meters above sea level. It is well-adapted to its island environment, where it reigns supreme as the apex avian predator.


The Sanford's sea eagle is confined to the Solomon Islands, where it has evolved and adapted to the local ecosystems.


The eagle's behavior is marked by its predatory nature, often seen scanning the tideline for carrion or swooping over the water to snatch fish. It is also known to opportunistically prey on other animals such as tortoises, crabs, sea snakes, and even megabats from the rainforest canopy.


The breeding season for Sanford's sea eagle spans from August to October. During this time, they construct nests where typically two eggs are laid, signaling the continuation of their lineage.

Diet and Feeding

Sanford's sea eagle has a diverse diet, primarily feeding on tideline carrion, fish, molluscs, and crabs. It also preys on tortoises, sea snakes, and occasionally birds and megabats. Reports have noted it feeding on the northern common cuscus as well.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List classifies Sanford's sea eagle as Vulnerable, indicating that it faces a high risk of endangerment in the wild. Conservation efforts are crucial to ensure the survival of this unique species.

In culture

The Sanford's sea eagle holds cultural significance in the Solomon Islands, often being depicted on postage stamps as a symbol of the nation's natural heritage.

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Sanford's Sea Eagles on Birda

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Profile picture for Rafael Lerch
Rafael Lerch
30 Jul 2023 - 7:00pm
Solomon Islands

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