Eagles are majestic birds of prey and are well known for their strength, beauty, and powerful hunting abilities. One unique aspect of eagles is their plumage, which can vary greatly depending on the species.
Some eagles have entirely white chests, while others have a mixture of white and dark feathers. Examples of eagles with white chests include the Philippine eagle, African fish eagle, white-breasted sea eagle, Bonelli’s eagle, and others.
In this article, we will explore all of these species of eagles that possess a white chest and highlight their distinct characteristics and habitats.
Eagles With White Chest
1. Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi)
These eagles are one of the tallest, rarest, largest, and most powerful raptors in the world. Also known as monkey-eating eagles, Philippine eagles are easy to spot due to their massive sizes, brown and white plumage, and shaggy crests.
They are the longest eagle species in the world, measuring 2.8 to 3.3 feet in length, and weighing between 9 and 17 pounds. Their wingspan ranges from 6 ft to 7 ft 3 in.
These diurnal raptors hunt in lowland and montane forests of the Philippines and can be seen on 4 major islands: eastern Luzon, Samar, Leyte, and Mindanao (largest population).
Philippine eagles are called monkey-eating eagles due to reports of Philippine natives who claimed that they fed exclusively on monkeys – this proved to be false as they also hunt on animals ranging from tiny bats (0.3 oz) to massive Philippine deer (30+ pounds).
They have dark brown backs, white chests and bellies, yellow legs, and bluish-gray beaks. Philippine eagles are considered to be Critically Endangered with a population of fewer than 500 birds.
2. African Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer)
African fish eagles, also known as African sea eagles, are national birds of Malawi, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. These large birds of prey are common around water where they sit prominently on perches near rivers, lakes, streams, and marshes.
As the name suggests, they feed on fish, grabbing them with shallow plunges to the water surface; African fish-eagles will also eat birds, reptiles, and carrion. Similarly to osprey, they have barbs on their feet to get a better grip on slippery fish.
These large raptors span around 6.6 ft (males) and 7.9 ft (females) across their wings and weigh from 4.4 to 7.9 pounds. African fish eagles have distinctive looks and resemble bald eagles – they are mostly brown and have white chests and heads. Their hook-shaped beaks are yellow and have black tips.
They are listed as species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and have an estimated population of around 300,000 birds.
3. White-breasted Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster)
These distinctive eagles with white heads, breasts, under-wing coverts, and tails are also known as white-bellied sea eagles. White-bellied sea eagles are dark gray on top and can be seen along coastlines, estuaries, and inland waterways of Southeast Asia and Australia.
These enormous raptors measure from 26-31 inches (males) to 31-35 inches in length (females) and weigh from 6 to almost 10 pounds. Their wingspan ranges from 5.8 to 7.2 feet. Similar to other raptors, females are larger than males, by almost 20%.
Since they spend most of their time near water, white-bellied eagles feed on fish, turtles, and sea snakes, but also on rabbits, bats, birds, and other animals. These aggressive raptors will also harass other birds and steal their food (including kites and ospreys).
White-bellied sea eagles are listed as species of Least Concern by the IUCN and have an estimated population of 10,000 to 100,000 individuals.
4. Black-and-white Hawk-eagle (Spizaetus melanoleucus)
Black-and-white hawk-eagles are small birds of prey found in lowland mixed forests and shrubland of Mexico, Central, and South America. Despite having a large range, they are considered rare, and not too much is known about the species.
Adults have white chests, necks, and heads with black crowns, dark upperparts, and bright orange-yellow legs and feet. Males are smaller than females.
Black-and-white hawk-eagles are carnivores and have a diet consisting of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. They hunt by soaring at great heights and diving rapidly with folded wings after detecting the prey.
Black-and-white hawk-eagles nest in the forest canopy, use sticks to build their nests, and lay a single egg that females incubate while males feed them. These eagles breed every 2 to 3 years.
Their total population is unknown but is considered to be declining due to habitat loss. The IUCN lists them as species of Least Concern.
Read More: List of white-colored raptors
5. Blyth’s Hawk-eagle (Nisaetus alboniger)
Blyth’s hawk-eagles are medium-sized raptors found in open woodlands of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore, Sumatra, and Borneo.
Adults can be identified by their black upperparts and streaker underparts – Blyth’s hawk eagles have white breasts with black streaks. They measure around 22 inches long and were named after Edward Blyth, a 19th-century English zoologist.
Blyth’s hawk eagles hunt small mammals, birds, lizards, and bats, grabbing them in the air. Due to deforestation and habitat loss, their population has been declining, but they are still listed as species of Least Concern by the IUCN.
6. Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata)
These medium-sized eagles were named after Franco Andrea Bonelli, an Italian ornithologist. Bonelli’s eagles are found in forests and mountains of southern Europe, northern Africa, the Middle East, and southern Asia.
They can be identified by their dark wings and tails and white chests and bellies that have small streaks. Adult birds measure from 22 to 29 inches long and weigh from 4.3 to 5.8 pounds on average. Females are larger than males by around 10%.
Bonelli’s eagles are mostly solitary throughout the year and prefer to hunt, soar, and perch alone. They have a diet primarily consisting of rabbits, hares, and birds; they might also hunt rats, foxes, squirrels, bats, and lizards.
Birds With White Chests Commonly Mistaken For Eagles
1. White-tailed Hawk
These large raptors are common in tropical and subtropical habitats of Central and South America. In the USA, white-tailed hawks can be seen in southern Texas, in Rio Grande Valley, mostly in open grasslands with scattered shrubs and low trees.
They have long and pointed wings and measure from 18 to 20.5 inches in length. Adults have steely gray upperparts, brown patches on shoulders, and white breasts and bellies. Their tails are also white with black bands near the tips.
You will recognize them as they soar with wings held in a shallow V-shape before dropping quickly to catch rats, mice, birds, snakes, frogs, crabs, and insects.
In Texas, they nest on top of low trees and shrubs, using sticks, twigs, and grasses to make their nests. Females will lay from 1 to 4 white eggs that might have brown spots.
Ospreys are large diurnal birds of prey found on every continent, except Antarctica. Due to their small heads, wide wingspans, and sharp beaks and talons, people sometimes mistake them for bald eagles.
They are dark brown above, white below, and have white chests and heads with broad brown stripes through the eyes. They can be also recognized by their M-shaped wings when soaring.
In North America, ospreys breed from Alaska and Newfoundland south to the Gulf Coast and Florida. When winter comes, they move south to winter from the southern parts of the USA to Argentina.
They are widespread there and can be found around the coast, lakes, rivers, and swamps. Ospreys are piscivorous and fish makes up 99% of their diet, hence their nickname “fish hawk.”
They will hover above the water, locate their prey and then swoop down for capture with their talons extended. Their toes are covered with short spines which help them grasp slippery fish better.
Together with many other bird species, ospreys are one of several large birds found in Ohio, Florida, Texas, and Michigan.
This concludes our list of eagles with white chests. Hopefully next time you see these birds, you will recognize any of them with ease! Just make sure to keep a safe distance.