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The gigantic and hefty birds known for their powerfully heavy beaks, big feet and razor-sharp talons, the mighty eagles are voracious raptors belonging to the family Accipitridae, which comprises of around 60 different species of this ravenous bird.
An emblem of power, strength, and courage, Eagles are extraordinary powerful creatures, known for their remarkable hunting skills, buoyant cruising abilities, and intimidating features. Exhibiting their phenomenal bravery, resilience, and fierceness among all the other species in the Bird Kingdom, eagles are highly reverend creatures, making them an outstanding bird of prey.
Lying on the Western side of the European region, the dynamic landscape of France inhabits a large range of majestic eagles including Bonelli’s Eagle, Short-toed Snake Eagle, Golden Eagle, White-Tailed Eagle, and Booted Eagle with an array of forests, woodlands, mountainous terrains, and wetlands.
5 Eagles You’ll See in France
The massive raptors are apex predatory birds known for their huskiness and incredibly large wingspan. One of the most powerful creatures, the eagles have a widespread population across the globe.
A few of these species can be spotted in France, with most of them having a permanent habitat. A few of these eagles tend to be non sedentary, being frequent visitors annually.
Let’s explore the Eagles dwelling in the diverse landscapes of France.
1. Bonelli’s Eagles
The Bonelli’s Eagle, once a widespread species of the Mediterranean region, has gradually faced a stark drop in its population.
A medium sized bird, the Bonelli’s Eagle soars high in the sky with its relatively short, but broad wings with rounded edges.
Easily identifiable by its conspicuous appearance in flight, the eagle has distinctly contrasted feathers, with dark wings and a white body. Notice the dark brownish flecks and streaks on the white underbody of the raptor.
Having a relatively long-life expectancy, the Bird of Prey can live for up to 30 years even in the natural surroundings.
A typically non migratory predatory bird, it does not migrate to another location with changes in the weather, preferring to stay within their territory.
Mostly inhabiting the Mediterranean environments, these eagles can be found in the hilly regions with rocky walls and woodlands.
These sedentary birds prefer to dwell in low-altitude cliffs, ledges, and caves. These partially concealed spots serve as optimal nesting sites for the eagle.
Given the name, Lord of the Garrigue, the Bonelli eagles feed on a vast array of prey, with their favorite delicacies being pigeons, rabbits and red-legged partridge, as well as corvids, lizards and snakes.
Over the years, the eagle has been actively hunted, shot and poisoned, remarkably affecting the survival of the species.
Electrocution, due to the bird’s wings touching the electrical cables and pylons, also poses a serious threat. Other factors including the use of pesticides and habitat degradation have also contributed to the drastic decline of the species.
Population in France
The last century has raised considerable concern among the nature preservation associations regarding the protection of the endangered species.
At present, its total population around the globe is estimated to be only around 40,000 pairs, out of which only 1000 pairs live and breed in Europe.
A rare but bodacious species of France, only about 30 breeding pairs have been identified in the country. This smattering number of the country’s most threatened species is astoundingly alarming.
2. Short Toed Eagle
Having a vast dependence on snakes, the short-toed snake eagle is a large raptor belonging to the family of Accipitridae. The eagle has an abundant population in Spain and France.
Large in size but relatively ungainly in appearance, the gawky eagle has a variable plumage. Having a conspicuously dark colored head, the bird has a predominantly whitish belly and underwings, with besmirched streaks of brown spots and splashes, while the upper parts are greyish brown.
One of the most powerful raptors, the eagles soar over the mountainous terrains and hills, as its legs dangle down, with the bird hovering for short periods. Its broad wings cover a wingspan of almost 6 feet.
In France, snakes make up around 70%-95% of the eagle’s diet. Primarily relying on snakes as a source of food, the carnivorous species also preys lizards, chameleons, medium sized mammals such as rodents and rabbits, insects and occasionally on birds as well.
Usually hunting by preying at high altitudes, the bird would swoop down rapidly, gliding immediately to capture its prey.
Generally, these birds tend to be migratory, flying to another region in search of food. However, there is some sedentary population dwelling in the Indian subcontinent.
Typically, these predatory eagles inhabit interspersed regions of land, such as woodlands interweaved with open terrains, lowland forests along with regions of grassy fields and wetlands. Some species dwell in the sunny arid and rocky areas with open woodlands.
Preferring to build nests in secluded areas, the nests of these eagles are typically found amidst the branches of dense, tall trees.
Like most species of Eagles, the Short-Toed Snake eagles have been a vulnerable target of illegal shooting and hunting over the years.
Electrocution due to collision with overhead power lines and disruption of their habitats due to the deforestation resulting in the massive cutting down of trees has an adverse impact on the bird’s population. Wind generators also pose a significant threat to the eagles.
Sometimes, a dearth of available prey also poses a threat to the species. Primarily relying on snakes for food, it is imperative to have a stable snake population for these species to thrive.
Population in France
Prevalent in the Mediterranean regions, the Short-Toed eagle tends to be typically restricted in the southern and eastern parts of Europe.
Quite widespread in France, the vagrant birds migrate to France from their winter range in Africa in around March to May, inhabiting here till September, before they depart to their range again.
3. Golden Eagle
One of the largest predatory birds, the magnificent golden eagle is a proficient cruiser and an extremely sharp-witted bird, capturing an array of prey. A symbol of reverence and fear, the mighty bird is a widespread species throughout most of Europe, North America and Asia.
With an entirely dark brown plumage, the nimble eagle is slightly streaked with paler, flight feathers on the long wings.
The lustrous golden feathers shine luminously on the back of the eagle’s head and neck, making the massive raptor easily identifiable among all the other species. The bird’s incredible power is evident in its powerful beak and razor-sharp talons.
Soaring at high altitudes with its hefty feathers, the keen eyesight of the bird aids in its search for preys. As soon as it locates its potential prey, the massive predator swiftly dives down in pursuit of its quarry.
Equipped with extraordinary features, these ravenous predators would snatch rabbits, squirrels and marmots, and feed on a variety of insects, birds, fish and reptiles.
Occasionally feasting on the carrions as well, the belligerent eagles have been known to attack animals as large as deers and even foxes.
These eagles can dwell in a variety of habitats, usually preferring open and semi open country areas around mountains, hills and cliffs.
Having a relatively widespread population, these raptors can be found in the arctic and deserts, from the tundra and Woodlands to the coniferous forests, farmlands as well as regions of wetlands.
These birds generally prefer to live in regions with a heterogeneous landscape, unperturbed by human disturbances.
They construct their nests at high altitudes in cliffs, tall trees or sometimes elevated telephone poles.
Having a relatively low reproductive potential compared to other birds, combined with the excessive hunting and shooting threats these birds face, the population of the Golden Eagle is of significant concern.
Over the years, the massive use of pesticides has led to considerable poisoning of the eagles, making them an endangered species.
Population in France
Over the last century, the population of the mystical eagle has faced considerable decline. Incessant efforts are being made to restore the species.
The Golden Eagle can be found throughout the northern hemisphere, the southern regions of the arctic and the sub-Sahara Desert. However, there are only around 8500 breeding pairs found in Europe, making it a cause of concern among the conservation authorities.
In France, the blazing golden eagle is prevalent across the Alps, the Mediterranean islands, the Jura and the regions of central and southern Massif Central.
Over a decade ago, there were only around 500 couples throughout the entire France, though the population has witnessed a steady rise. The eagle remains listed as an endangered species in the French Red List.
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4. White-Tailed Eagle
White-Tailed Eagles, the gigantic predatory birds are the largest eagles found in the European region. Their massive wings give the bird an incredibly large wingspan.
A fierce raptor, the white-tailed eagle is equipped with extremely sharp talons and a piercing beak to attack its prey.
The eagle has variable plumage colors throughout its body, having a brown back with conspicuously lighter hued head and neck.
True to its name, the bird has a short, white wedged shaped tail, which gives the bird its distinctive appearance among all the eagles in the family.
Cruising at an incredibly fast speed of almost 70 km/hr along with a massive wingspan of 2.5 meters, makes the bird one of the most puissant creatures in flight.
Having relatively rectangular-shaped wings, the eagle has rather long and broad wings, edged into fingered shapes.
These eagles typically hunt for their prey by waiting for one to appear upfront, either by gliding low in the sky with rapid wingbeats or lurking behind concealed perches. Fish, the primary source of food for these majestic creatures, is captured by throwing its talons forwards in the water, and clasping the fish, sometimes even eggs and chicken.
For the slightly bigger species of its prey, the eagles hound them until they become lifeless due to severe exhaustion. These opportunistic hunters also prey on rabbits, hares and various other birds as well as carrions which is an integral part of their diet.
White Tailed Eagles are typically sedentary species of birds, staying loyal to their territory and even their nest. Only a few individuals inhabiting in the northern most region migrate downwards towards the south in winters.
These graceful birds are generally found along the rocky coastlines, estuaries, lakes near the sea and other water bodies. However, some individuals also dwell in the inland regions.
The reverent eagle chooses elevated spots to build its nest, typically the tops of tall trees or cliffs, reinforcing and strengthening the same nest in the following years.
The White-Tailed Eagle has been subject to a number of threats in the last few centuries, ultimately resulting in almost an absolute extermination of the mighty bird.
Factors contributing to the near extinction of the eagle include not just the illegal hunting and poisoning of the birds against the laws but also the excessive use of pesticides, water pollution and the disappearance of wetlands which serve as the main source of food for the raptor.
Human disturbances in regions where the eagles inhabit have also led them to abandon their nests and young ones. Not only this, but the customary snatching of the eagles’ chick and eggs have also aggravated the problem.
Population in France
Over the last few decades, a slow but steady rise has been observed in the population of the White-Tailed Eagle across Europe. Measures implemented for the protection of the species and prohibiting the use of harmful pollutants have gradually stabilized the population.
Despite this, the numbers are extremely small, exceeding no more than just a few thousand pairs.
In France, the species have almost completely disappeared, not having nested in the country’s forests and wetlands since 1959. However, the young of the migratory species annually spend their winters in the regions of Lorraine and Champagne, even though the adults remain in their own habitat.
If you want to see a glimpse of the White-Tailed Eagles in France, you know where to find them!
5. Booted Eagle
The Booted Eagle, though the smallest species of eagle in Europe, is one of the apex predatory birds.
Despite its medium size, the booted eagle is the nimblest and fastest among the plethora of bird species.
There are two distinct morphs of booted eagles, each having variable plumage forms. The birds with a paler plumage are primarily light grey in color with a conspicuously dark head and flight feathers.
On the other hand, the dark form of the booted eagles has a contrasted plumage with mid-brown plumage blending into dark grey flight feathers, while the neck and head tend to have a rusty to dark brown coloration.
The booted eagle usually takes its prey from the ground. Using its phenomenal vision to hunt for its potential prey, the eagle dives down rapidly, displaying its spectacular stoops. The major preys of the eagle include pigeons, starlings, thrushes, pipits and larks.
Living in a wide range of habitats, Booted Eagles mainly breed in the mountainous regions with deciduous or coniferous forests interspersed with open lands. Woodland areas in the lowlands combined with hilly regions serve as optimal habitats for these mighty creatures.
The majority of the booted eagles living in Europe are migratory birds. A vast number of booted eagles breed in the southern and eastern parts of Europe including Portugal, France, and Spain.
Most of these individuals tend to leave the European region from the month of September, until around March. Only a few of these birds would spend their winter in the Southern regions of France or Spain.
Over the years, the booted eagles have lost numerous members of their species owing to considerable destruction of their habitat.
Furthermore, disturbance by the humans at the breeding and nesting sites of these birds causes them to abandon the place. Excessive hunting and persecution of the bird have also resulted in a decline in the number of species.
Additionally, since these birds largely rely on the prey as a source of food, a dearth of their potential prey also has an adverse impact on the eagle’s wellbeing.
Population in France
The booted eagle is one of the most widespread species in Europe, with the region inhabiting almost 31% of the bird’s global range. Due to the increased concern by the preservation authorities, the population seems to be increasing at a slow rate.
According to Birdlife International, around 4400 to 8900 pairs inhabit the European range. Out of these, only approximately 380 to 650 pairs breed in France, while a few non-sedentary individuals are regular annual visitors.
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The majestic eagles are prevalent throughout France. You can occasionally get a chance to see one soaring in the sky with slow wingbeats, or even perched on skyscraping buildings rooftops, in wait to swoop down to grasp a potential prey.
Having faced considerable persecution globally, and the destruction of their habitats, the mighty birds of prey have seen a significant decline in their population.
Fortunately, the conservatory authorities have been quick to act, and stringent measures are being taken for the preservation of the voracious raptors.
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David A. Swanson
Bird Watching USA
My name is David and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!