Catching an eagle's nesting site

Catching an eagle's nesting site

A white-bellied sea eagle spotted at a nesting site away from the Karwar coast in the state. Photo: K Puttaraju

The white bellied sea eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) is a rare bird and its population is declining. It breeds along the coast or a few kilometres inland. A few active nests have been reported from coastal Ratnagiri (Maharashtra). It has been sighted in parts of coastal Karnataka. A bird watcher by hobby and scientific officer working at Kaiga atomic power plant K Puttaraju has observed a few nesting sites at Karwar.

These birds are seen in small numbers along the coast. According to naturalists of Anshi National Park, their number has not increased over the past few years.

This eagle was noticed at Anshi National Park, Kadra, Kodasalli and Kaiga. All these areas fall under one of the 24 biodiversity hotspots in the world i.e, the Western Ghats. Normally, the nests are made along the coast. But in Karwar, the nests are 60km away from the coast.

Habitat change

White-bellied sea eagles must have chosen this far away place for nesting due to disturbances in habitat and pollution in and around the coast.  The Anshi region is rich in biodiversity, and an ecologically fragile and sensitive area. Tall trees of this area with Kali river on the other side seem to be the ideal place for the white-bellied sea eagle to build its nest.

Writer Satish Pande points out in his book, ‘Birds of the Western Ghats, Konkan and Malabar’ that they are very sensitive to any kind of disturbances and abandon their nests if disturbed. Habitat destruction affects its breeding success.

The white-bellied sea eagle that belongs to the Accipitridae family is an endangered species listed in schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act. The species is also found in Australia, New Guinea, Indonesia, China and some parts of South East Asia.   In India, the largest congregation is in the Sundarbans. This eagle is a graceful and buoyant creature when sailing.