Grey-headed Fish Eagle

lcthyophanga ichthyaetus  in हिंदी
Scientific Name:  lcthyophanga ichthyaetus

Name:  Grey-headed Fish Eagle

    Local Names:
  • Assamese     উকাহ
  • Gujarati     રાખોડી શિર માછીમાર, રાખોડી શિર મત્સ્ય ગરુડ
  • Malayalam     മീൻപരുന്ത്
  • Marathi     करड्या डोक्याचा मत्स्यगरुड
  • Nepali     माछाकुल
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A smallish to medium-sized but quite bulky fish eagle. Has a small bill, a small head on long neck, rounded tail and shortish legs with unfeathered tarsi and long talons. Wings aren’t very long and wingtips reach less than halfway down tail. Males and females are sexually dimorphic. The grey-headed fish eagle has a body length of 61–75 cm. Females are heavier than males at 2.3–2.7 kg compared to 1.6 kg. The tail measures between 23–28 cm and the tarsus 8.5–10 cm. The wingspan measure between 155–170 cm. Adults are grey-brown with a pale grey head and pale iris, belly and tail are white with the having a broad black subterminal band. Breast and neck are brown, with the wings on top dark brown with blacker primaries and below brown. Juveniles the head and neck are brown, greyer on the ides of throat, with buff supercilia and whitish streaks. The rest of the upperparts are darker brown, edged with grey and secondaries and tertials faintly barred. Tail black and white marbled with broader dark subterminal band and white tip. Belly and thighs white, while breast and flanks brown streaked with white. Iris is darker than adult. As juveniles mature subterminal band becomes more prominent, head becomes greyer and loses streaking becoming uniformly brown.

Size in cm:

69-74 cm

Size in Inch

27-29 Inch

Primary color:


Secondary color:

gray   (Bird may have more colors)


As the common name suggests the grey-headed fish eagle is a specialist piscivore, which preys upon live fish and scavenges dead fish and occasionally reptiles and terrestrial birds and small mammals. Tingay et al. found that the diet of the grey-headed fish eagle in the Prek Toal protected area of the Tonlé Sap contains the endangered Tonlé Sap water snake. Whether this is the primary prey item of their diet or a seasonal occurrence in this are remains unclear. The most common method of foraging used is to catch fish from a hunting perch close to a water source with a short flight to snatch prey on the water surface or just below. Also quarters over stretches of river or lakes and fish too heavy to lift may be dragged to bank to devour. It is also dynamic in prey pursuit and can catch fish in rough water such as rapids. Both species in the genus Ichthyophaga have strongly recurved talons like the osprey (Pandionidae) a specialisation for catching fish, which is lacking in the genus Haliaeetus (sea eagles)

Habit and habited:

Grey-headed fish eagles live in lowland forests up to 1,500 m above sea-level. Their nests are close to bodies of water such as slow-moving rivers and streams, lakes, lagoons, reservoirs, marshes, swamps and coastal lagoons and estuaries. They are also known to frequent irrigation tanks in Sri Lanka, hence where their alternate English in Sri Lanka comes from.


The calls of the grey-headed fish eagle include a gurgling awh-awhr and chee-warr repeated 5–6 times, an owlish ooo-wok, ooo-wok, ooo-wok, a nasally honking uh-wuk and a loud high pitched scream. These begin as subdued low short notes each succeeding one more strongly upturned and more strident then previous then dying away again and are uttered from a perch or on the wing. Fledglings give a longer nasal uuuw-whaar that starts low and subdued then becomes, louder and higher and strident. During the breeding season becomes quite vocal, with calls being loud and far carrying, often calling also at night

Bird Type:

Birds of Prey

The grey-headed fish eagle is a large stocky raptor at about 75 cm in length. Adults have dark brown wings and back, a grey head and reddish brown breast. The lower belly, thighs and tail are white, the latter having a black terminal band. Sexes are similar, but young birds have a pale buff head, underparts and underwing, all with darker streaking. The grey-headed fish eagle breeds in the forests of the Indian subcontinent east to Southeast Asia. It builds a stick nest in a tree near water and lays two to four eggs. It is a specialist fish eater which hunts over lakes, lagoons, and large rivers.

Distribution Map

  •     Resident (inc. local and altitudinal migrants)
  •     Former range (no recent records but may still survive)
  •     Summer visitor (including summer monsoon)
  •     Winter visitor
  •     Passage (autumn and/or spring) visitor
  •     known to be occasional, scarce or erratic
  •     Small isolated population (actual range smaller)  
  •     Isolated record(s) - one or more in the same area  
  •  colour coded for seasonality as per coloured ranges, black denotes unspecified season

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