Appearance

Lesser spotted eagle (Clanga pomarina, previously Aquila pomarina) is medium sized dark brown eagle. It’s wing span can reach up to 1,5 meters. The wings are long and evenly broad, tips well “fingered”. It’s strong legs are covered with feathers up to the fingers.
 

Lifestyle

Although it is  one of the smallest eagles, the lesser spotted eagle is a majestic bird that can usually be observed calmly soaring above fields and plains. It reaches maturity around age of 3-4, and can live up to 20 years. Life of lesser spotted eagle is closely linked with humans and their activities as it is strongly affected by the way we manage our farmlands and meadows, and what we do in the forests. Lesser spotted eagle needs a mosaic of different land uses - a meadow, fallow lands and grasslands where to forage for food, and it needs a forest where to build a nest. Lesser spotted eagle also needs separately growing trees, hay stacks, fences and poles where to sit and  observe the potential prey. In turn, clear cuts and large monoculture fields are not suitable for lesser spotted eagles. If lesser spotted eagle is present in the landscape, it indicates rich biodiversity of the territory.

 

Foraging

Most often the lesser spotted eagle feeds on small rodents (mainly voles) and amphibians, but can prey as well on moles, insects, and - rarely - small birds. 
Lesser spotted eagle forages in meadows, grasslands, fallow lands, and does it for the most of its active daytime. Most often it will forage in the range of one kilometer around the nest, therefore it is especially important that this area includes mowed meadows and small wetlands as a source of frogs. Lesser spotted eagle looks for the prey while soaring in the air or sitting in an elevated location - a separately growing tree or haystack, but it can also be seen foraging on the ground. 

Breeding and habitat

Lesser spotted eagles breed in pairs, mostly remain monogamous and after spending the winter in Africa return to previous breeding places. 

They make their nests in grown leaf and mixed forests with spruces, birches and aspens, and usually build the nests in close proximity to the edge of forest. 

Lesser spotted eagles return to Latvia from Africa in the beginning of April. At the end of April the female lays one or two eggs - white with darker spots. Usually incubation is done by female, while the male protects the territory and brings prey, but sometimes also the male undertakes the incubating. After a little more than a month the chicks are hatched. If both eggs hatch and chicks are two, the oldest and strongest attacks the other and in most cases only one survives. The fact that lesser spotted eagles have a small number of offsprings is another reason why the population increases slowly. Lesser spotted eagles are very sensitive to disturbances therefore they should not be disturbed during breeding, especially time of incubation. 

Life cycle

Until the end of the summer lesser spotted eagle usually sticks around its nest area and takes care of the offspring, but at the beginning of september starts it’s long way to wintering grounds in Africa. The trip usually is around 11 000 kilometers. The destination -- Eastern part of Africa. Latvia welcomes back lesser spotted eagles in the beginning of April when they return to seek the old nests. The highest breeding density of lesser spotted eagles ever registered in world is in nature park “Kuja” in Latvia where it reached 33 pairs per 100 km2.

Conservation

Latvia is home for almost a half of all European Union lesser spotted eagles and one fifth of the world population. It is estimated that around 4 thousand pairs breed in Latvia. However, since the beginning of 21st century the population has decreased almost by 15%. Therefore Latvia is responsible for protection of lesser spotted eagle not only in national level, but also on European and even global level. 
The main threats to lesser spotted eagle in Latvia are intensive farming and intensive forestry. The large and homogenous monoculture fields endanger the foraging sites and the forestry changes the natural breeding habitat of lesser spotted eagle.

Main features

Medium sized, the wingspan around 150 cm
Medium sized, the wingspan around 150 cm
Long, broad wings with square tips
Long, broad wings with square tips
Brown feathers
Brown feathers
Legs covered in feathers up to fingers
Legs covered in feathers up to fingers
Sours and glides with wings held horizontally, but with slightly  downward bent wing tips
Sours and glides with wings held horizontally, but with slightly downward bent wing tips

Why it is important to protect Lesser spotted eagle

In Europe Lesser spotted eagle is threatened by habitat loss (deforestation, industrial farming practices ) and hunting on the migration routes.
No other country in EU is a home to so many lesser spotted eagles. If the population decreases in Latvia, it will affect the global population, thus we bear a responsibility to protect the species.
The population of lesser spotted eagles in Latvia has decreased by 10-15% since 2000.
Lesser spotted eagle is an indicator species that serves as a measure of the environmental conditions in given area.
Lesser spotted eagles are breeding mostly in mature forests, as younger trees are not stable enough to carry the weight of the nests. Therefore it is important to preserve the old growth forests.
Lesser spotted eagle is affected by intensive farming and intensive forestry that decreases the habitats suitable for the species.
If the farming and forestry is lesser spotted eagle friendly, it is beneficial also for other plant and animal species and biological diversity in general.
Latvia is an important region for research of lesser spotted eagle - we provide valuable and globally significant information about the species.
Latvia can be proud of lesser spotted eagle - we are a good place for this special and beautiful bird.

Live stream

In April 2018 we installed webcams at two nests of lesser spotted eagle. The webcams allow us to observe the life of birds and to follow the course of nesting. The data obtained can be useful for ornitologists in order to gain a better understanding of behaviour of the bird. 

One of the webcams was installed at the nest built in a spruce in Zemgale - middle of Southern part of Latvia. Last year one young bird was observed in this nest, and judging by the construction of the nest, it has been used for nesting for quite a long time. 

The other nest, also located in Zemgale, is known since 2017 when one young bird was observed there. It is built in a birch tree approximately 20 meters from the ground and its estimated age is at least five years. 

However, during 2018 nesting did not occur in neither of the two nests. The nest in the spruce was visited by lesser spotted eagle only couple of times, but the nest in birch tree was more inhabited -- during spring several birds visited it, also a pair of birds spent longer time here and even decorated the nest with pine and spruce needles. The couple has been occasionally observed in the nest until the end of August. 

Currently the livestream is not active. We will resume it in Spring 2019.