Little Eagle

Did you know?

Australia has only two 'booted' eagles, the Wedge-tailed and the Little Eagles. Their legs are heavily feathered, giving the effect of trousers with stout solid legs. Other raptors have bare legs, which appear slimmer.

Very vocal, especially when breeding, with whistles, chatters, whines and squeals.
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
Minimum Size: 
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Breeding season: 
August to October, earlier in the south.
Clutch Size: 
1 to 3
37 days
Nestling Period: 
57 days
Conservation Status
Basic Information
Scientific Name: 
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What does it look like?

The Little Eagle is a small, powerful stocky eagle, with a short broad head and moderately long tail, square-cut at the tip when closed. The legs are heavily feathered. When perched, the Little Eagle has a short crest. Plumage varies from light to dark brown, with a pale broken 'M' across the upperparts, which is visible from a distance. There is also a pale M-shaped band on the underwing. It has long broad wings, spanning over 1m, with dark 'fingered' tips. It soars in tight circles, very high on thermals or up-draughts, gliding on flat wings. The female is larger than the male.

Similar species: 

The Little Eagle is similar in size to the Whistling Kite and the light morph (form) of the Little Eagle may cause confusion. The Little Eagle's flight pattern - soaring in tight circles with flat wings - is distinctive. The underwing 'M' pattern is diagnostic, as are the long, broad wings.

Where does it live?

The Little Eagle is widespread in mainland Australia, central and eastern New Guinea.


The Little Eagle is seen over woodland and forested lands and open country, extending into the arid zone. It tends to avoid rainforest and heavy forest.

Seasonal movements: 

The Little Eagle is partly migratory or dispersive. Adult birds are mainly sedentary, while the young birds disperse.

What does it do?

The Little Eagle searches for prey on the wing or from a high exposed perch, taking prey from the ground, the shrub layer or the canopy. Prey includes rabbits, other live mammals and insects.


Little Eagles nest in mature living trees in open woodland or tree-lined watercourses. They rarely nest in isolated trees. The nest is an open bowl of twigs and branches, lined with green leaves. The female mainly broods the young and feeds the young small pieces of food bill to bill. The male hunts for food for the young. The male will incubate while the female eats the food he has brought for her.

Living with us

The Little Eagle is secure in Australia, but uncommon. Populations may benefit from clearing, which may open new feeding grounds, but they do not respond well to urbanisation.

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