The 3 Types of Eagles That Live in Malta! (2023)
What types of eagles can you find in Malta?
Whenever they appear, I make sure to stop and watch these incredible birds of prey. I’m always amazed at their beauty, large size, and astonishing ability to soar at extreme heights! And I’m not alone, as eagles have a special place in many people’s hearts and minds.
Below are the eagles that live in Malta!
Make sure to pay attention to the range maps to see which eagles live near you! In addition, I’ve included a few photographs to help you identify any birds you are lucky enough to observe for each species.
#1. Short-Toed Eagle
- Circaetus gallicus
- Adults typically range from 59 to 70 centimeters long with a wingspan of 162 to 195 centimeters.
- Their coloring is brown with a predominantly white underside.
- Black bars line the underside of their wings and belly and are visible when flying.
Short-Toed Eagles fly more than any other eagle in Malta! They soar over their territory from a height of up to 500 meters, hunting from the air and diving to catch their prey.
Sometimes called Short-Toed Snake Eagles, this species primarily eats reptiles and occasionally birds and mammals. If they attempt to snatch a snake too large to pick up, they’ll fight it on the ground, grabbing at it with its claws and beak until the snake dies.
This species primarily lives in open plains and semi-desert regions where snakes are plentiful. Short-Toed Eagles in Malta migrate to avoid cold winters, while those in Asia and the Middle East are year-round residents.
The species has a wide range and a large population, but it isn’t immune to threats from humans. For example, in 1993, 50 Short-Toed Eagles stopped in Malta during their migration, and they were all illegally shot and killed in one day.
You might have heard the call of a Short-Toed Eagle and assumed it was another water bird since they sound similar to gulls!
#2. Lesser Spotted Eagle
- Clanga pomarina
- Adults are typically up to 60 centimeters long with a wingspan of 150 centimeters.
- Their small, light brown head contrasts with their dark brown wings and body.
- Typically they have a white patch on the wings and a V-shaped marking near the base of the tail.
Lesser Spotted Eagles live in open country and lightly wooded grasslands. They are diurnal, meaning they sleep at night and hunt during the day. They primarily live in trees and hunt from perches, gliding down to capture small mammals for meals.
It’s rare for Lesser Spotted Eagles to hunt while flying, but they’ll walk on the forest floor to forage for food. They have keen eyesight and often hunt with other Lesser Spotted Eagles.
This species is one of the most territorial eagles in Malta and will regularly fight other birds that encroach on its home range. Male Lesser Spotted Eagles are more aggressive than females and usually display aggression toward other males, while females protect nesting and roosting sites. Here, you can see a female doing just that on a nest camera.
Lesser Spotted Eagles are the only species in Malta with the unusual habit of nest visitation.
The reason isn’t known, but females will often visit the nests of other females and stay for short periods before returning to their own territory. Researchers have discovered that females make these visits even if they aren’t closely related, almost as if they’re visiting for a neighborly chat!
#3. Booted Eagle
- Hieraaetus pennatus
- Adults typically are up to 40 centimeters long with a wingspan of 110 to 132 centimeters.
- Two distinct color morphs:
- The light morph is pale gray with a dark gray head and wings.
- The dark morph is mid-brown with dark gray wings.
- This species is relatively small and has a very short neck.
Booted Eagles in Malta are migratory, living during the breeding season in open forests and hilly terrain. Then, they travel south toward Sub-Saharan Africa during winter. They will nest in nearly any protected area except for dense forests, which don’t allow them to fly freely.
The less-common dark morph of this species is often confused with the Black Kite due to their similar coloring and size. One way to tell the two apart is to look at the tail feathers. In Black Kites, the tail feathers are spread straight across and end in a sharp line. Booted Eagles have a fan-like tail with a curved edge.
Booted Eagles hunt from the air, circling above clearings and diving to catch smaller birds on the ground. They occasionally eat reptiles and mammals. Breeding pairs mate for life and can often be seen flying and hunting together. The best time to observe Booted Eagles in Malta is March and September when they migrate. The birds are often secluded during the breeding season in forested nesting areas, and males only leave to hunt.
Even though the Booted Eagle’s habitat is threatened due to development and agricultural activity, its population is steady and not in decline.
Like other eagle species, Booted Eagles’ voices don’t really match their fierce looks! The short, high chirping notes sound more like a garden songbird.
Do you need additional help identifying eagles in Malta?
Here are a few books and resources you can purchase that will assist! (Links below take you to Amazon)
Which eagles have you seen before in Malta?
Leave a comment below!