18 January 2015

Second calendar year fulvescens Greater Spotted Eagle – Sabkhat Al Fasl

Whilst ringing at Sabkhat Al Fasl I found a warm coloured eagle at first light that I flushed from a reedy area, that I first thought may have been an Eastern imperial Eagle. This was on brief views flying away when I had no binoculars as I was setting the ringing nets. Later in the day I saw what I assume was the same bird again in flight and managed to get a few photos of it before it drifted off. These views and the photos suggested the bird was a spotted eagle and probably a Greater Spotted but the warm colour and the double comma on the underwing, wing-length and six fingers instead of 7 lead to thoughts of a possible Lesser Spotted Eagle. Lesser Spotted Eagle is a very rare bird in Saudi Arabia and when looking at my photos it became apparent that the wing was in moult accounting for why the hand lacked seven fingers. The moult suggests the bird is a second calendar year with the outer primaries juvenile and the inner four or so replaced feathers, or possibly a third calendar year bird. I was fairly convinced of the identification of this bird as a possible fulvescens Greater Spotted Eagle but sent a few photos to other birders for advice and help all of who agreed with the identification as an older juvenile Greater Spotted Eagle. Andrea Corso who is extremely generous with his help to me mentioned the following “A very hard bird indeed...for the gape line length, which really seems to overpass the eye, it really seems to be a Tawny Eagle, but there is no pale window on inner primaries at ALL!!!  and this is usually a diagnostic character pro rapax, also there is no barring visible at all on the remiges so I would favour an older immature (2-3 calendar year) Aquila clanga fulvescens for these reasons !!!”