What bird of prey?

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eagle's picture
What bird of prey?

Hi i saw this bird of prey by the king river in Albany WA but i can't quite remember what it looked like i think it was either an osprey or white bellied sea eagle. It was fairly close but didn't stay long. I know this isn't much to go by but could anyone be able to help me on my id. If this helps i saw it on the right hand side of he king river bridge where coraki cottages is. I went up a track which took me to the spot. Thanks eagle.

eagle's picture

If this helps more i remember the bird being white and where i saw it was a dead tree close to the water. The bird was quiet and when i first saw it i immediately thought it was an osprey but now i am reconsidering the birds id because i cannot remember if the bird had brown wings or not so i am thinking that it might have been another bird species.

magpie's picture

Its impossible for any of us to tell without a photo or more detailed description. Both birds are found in that region and both frequent water habitats.
The Sea Eagle is considerably larger than the Osprey.

An adult Osprey will have patches of brown on the face whilst adult sea eagle has a clean white face. There can be a 25cm difference in size between the adults of these species so if you thought it was a "huge" bird then its likely a sea eagle as they really are unmistakable as far as size goes.

eagle's picture

Thanks magpie. If this helps aswell the place that i saw the bird there is supposed to be an ospreys nest. I got the info about the nest from a website which had info on birding sites around Albany but i am not sure how up to date the web page is. when i went there though i didn't see any large nests. So here is the URL for the website where i got the info from

Thanks Eagle. Oh and P.S. i dont remeber the bird being really large.

Larus's picture

Hi Eagle

One of the things we have to be very careful about is jumping to conclusions when identifying any bird! I've learned this the hard way - embarrassing myself in front of more experienced, or at least more cautious, observers.

These are some of the things that are useful when trying to identify a bird:
Shape - is it more like a duck, an ibis , or a magpie?
Size - if it can be compared to a nearby bird (or anything) that you are VERY familiar with
Comparitive size of the bird's parts - e.g. length of bill vs head length; length of legs vs body length; length of tail vs breadth of wings, etc. These ratios are more dependable than overall perception of size.
Habitat - some birds have specialised habitats
Plumage (colour and patterns) - but this can be misleading in some species, or in young birds, or in difficult lighting
Bare parts - the colour and shape of bills, legs, bare skin etc change far less than plumage variations
Call - with experience, you will be able to separate birds by their calls. You can find many common Australian bird calls on the Birds in Backyards ID area.

And some of the less useful things :
Colour - can be deceptive
Size without a reference point e.g. bird of prey flying overhead!
Maps in field guides can be misleading, and may refer to seasonal rather than year-round presence. Some are just plain wrong!
Photos (online and in guides) - only show one stance or version of the bird. And again, some are wrong! However, a reliable place to look, after Birds in Backyards, is the Australian Bird Image Database, where you can find many different images of each species:

Just be careful claiming a bird on a number of pieces of circumstantial evidence:
There was an XYZ there last week
People have reported XYZ here a lot
A vague memory can be "filled in" by looking at a field guide later ... but our minds play tricks on us! Take a few notes at the time you see the bird, if possible.

My advice is to research all the possible species for this place / size / colouration / shape and then go back for another look!

eagle's picture

Thanks Larus. Could anyone tell me what species of bird of prey this is. I saw three of them and they were in the same area i mentioned above. It was an overcast day when i took these pictures but does anyone know what species they are. I think they are white bellied sea eagles. Here they are

The photo above i think shows a white coloured belly and darker wings.

In the image above you can definitely see a white chest and greyish wings

Larus's picture

Hi Eagle

These shots are of an Osprey. You can see the facial pattern in a couple of the shots, and the way the wings are held is diagnostic - the "gull-winged" shape like one of those fabulous Delorean sports cars, as in "Back to the Future"!

The clearest feature that says it isn't a sea-eagle is the tail, which would be wedge-shaped in that species. Have a look at some sea-eagle pics on ABID and you'll see what I mean.
Here's a wonderful example taken by Tom Tarrant, who runs the Database:


eagle's picture

Thanks Larus

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