Lesser fish eagle

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The lesser fish eagle (Ichthyophaga humilis) belongs to the family Accipitridae. These lesser fish eagle species are distributed in north India, south India (Kerala and Karnataka), Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Taxonomy of Lesser fish eagle

  • Scientific Name: Ichthyophaga humilis
  • Common Name: Lesser fish eagle
  • French: Pygargue nain; German: Braunschwanz-Seeadler; Spanish: Pigarguillo menor;
  • Other names: Lesser Fishing-eagle; Falco humilis S. Müller and Schlegel, 1841; Ichthyophaga humilis;
  • Family: Accipitridae › Accipitriformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: (Müller,S & Schlegel, 1841)
Ichthyophaga humilis was earlier classified under genus Falco. The genus Icthyophaga (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) was previously spelled Ichthyophaga. The two recognized subspecies are: I. h. plumbea (Jerdon, 1871) and I. h. humilis (S. Müller & Schlegel, 1841).

Indian birds - Image of Lesser fish-eagle - Ichthyophaga humilis
Indian birds - Image of Lesser fish-eagle - Ichthyophaga humilis


The lesser fish eagle is a medium sized bird, measuring 50 to 70 cm in length and weighing 780 to 800 grams. The wingspan is 120 to 160 cm. It has greyish brown plumage. The belly and thighs are white. The legs are cream colored with black talons. The eyes are light yellow. The head is small and the tail is rounded. Its call is a cackling sound.


The lesser fish eagles inhabit various forms of rivers, lakes, and wetlands. These eagle species are often seen along hill streams and fast moving rivulets with fringe trees.

Feeding habits

The lesser fish eagles mainly feed on fish. They have claws and talons adapted for plucking the prey from the water. They usually use perches for spotting prey.


The lesser fish eagle breeding season in north India is from March to August. The nest is built with sticks and leaves. The clutch may contain two to four eggs.


The eagle subspecies I. h. plumbea is distributed in north India, south India (Kerala and Karnataka), Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. The subspecies I. h. humilis is distributed in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Movement Patterns

These eagle species are mostly sedentary in their ranges. The eagles in the high altitudes may descend to lower levels in winter.

Status and conservation

The lesser fish eagle global population is preliminarily estimated to number 15,000 to 75,000 individual birds. There is rapid decline in the eagle population and these species are considered near threatened. Loss of forest cover along water bodies and rivers and also over-fishing are the main threats to their survival.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated these eagle species and has listed them as "Near Threatened".

Biological classification of Ichthyophaga humilis
Species:I. humilis
Binomial name:Ichthyophaga humilis
Distribution:Indian Subcontinent, Myanmar, Malaysia and Indonesia;
Feeding habits:Mainly fish;
IUCN status listing:
Near Threatened

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Image Author: Subramanya C K | Image License: CC BY-SA 3.0
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