Saturday, April 6, 2019

Sri Lankan Crested Hawk-Eagle

An absolutely beautiful bird that we saw quite a few times, several of those observations quite close and for an extended period, was the crested hawk-eagle, also known as the changeable hawk-eagle. There are five subspecies of the changeable hawk-eagle, but three of them do not have crests on their head. So the term crested hawk-eagle really applies to only two of the subspecies, one found in India (Nisaetus cirrhatus cirrhatus, the nominate subspecies) and the one we found, endemic to Sri Lanka (N.c. ceylanensis). 
Crested hawk eagle in Yala NP.
In Yala NP.
Juveniles have a buff head with white-tipped black crest, a light brown tail with about seven thin dark bars and a whitish tip, a whitish upper body, spotted and streaked with black or dark brown about the rear crown and nape. The underparts are variable with thin brown streaks or spots on the chest and tawny barring on the thigh, legs and crissum. Adults are dark brown above and boldly streaked below, a variably sized floppy crest, a thinly barred tail and long feathered legs. Adults have yellow to orange eyes and the eyes of juveniles are gray to pale greenish yellow. Adults and juveniles have yellow feet. 
In Yala NP
The first crested hawk-eagle we saw, or at least the first one we observed for a long time, was in Udawalawe National Park. It was a juvenile and had one of its talons stuck in a piece of wood and was trying to dislodge it, flying up and down. We got some great photos of that beautiful bird. 
Juvenile eagle in Udawalawe NP. 

A good view of its upper plumage with wings out-stretched. 
Later, in Yala National Park, we saw quite a few. The most spectacular sighting was an adult near us on the limb of a tree holding and eating a snake. I have lots of photos of it. 
An adult with a snake it its claw in Yala NP. 
Note that the crest is not sticking up.

A photo of the back of the head with a loop of the snake visible. 
Finally, we saw at least one in Bundala National Park, a juvenile. 

1 comment:

  1. That penultimate photo reminds me of the hawkwing mushrooms we picked with our son in Colorado a few years ago. These are some amazing photos.