Mountain Hawk-eagles

Mountain Hawk-eagles (Nisaetus nipalensis)

The Mountain Hawk-eagles or Hodgson’s Hawk-eagle (Nisaetus nipalensis, earlier treated under Spizaetus) is a bird of prey. Like all eagles, it is in the family Accipitridae.

Mountain Hawk-eagles
Mountain Hawk-eagles

Mountain Hawk-eagles Distribution / Range

It breeds in southern Asia from Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka to China, Taiwan and Japan.


The Mountain Hawk-eagles is a medium-large raptor at about 70–72 cm in length. The typical adult has brown upperparts and pale underparts, with barring on the undersides of the flight feathers and tail.

The breast and belly and underwing coverts are heavily streaked. The wings are broad with a curved trailing edge, and are held in a shallow V in flight. Males and females look alike, but young birds are often whiter-headed.

The Sri Lankan and South Indian subspecies (S. n. kelaarti) are smaller and have unstreaked buff underwing coverts. A 2008 study based on the geographic isolation and differences in call suggests that this be treated as a full species, Nisaetus kelaarti.

The Japanese subspecies N. n. orientalis is larger, lighter, and has only a very small crest, which is large in the other two subspecies.

The heavier underpart streaking and wing shape help to distinguish this species from the similar Changeable Hawk-eagle (Nisaetus cirrhatus).

A Mountain Hawk-eagles Perched on Tree
A Mountain Hawk-eagles Perched on Tree

Breeding / Nesting

It is a bird of mountain woodland, that builds a stick nest in a tree and lays usually a single egg.

Diet / Feeding

Mountain Hawks-eagles eat small mammals, birds and reptiles.


Though it is not considered a globally threatened species, the Japanese population is declining. As the species is a K-strategist like all eagles, it was feared that the ongoing population reduction of N. n. orientalis might lead to loss of genetic diversity, and consequently inbreeding depression.

However, genetic diversity was shown to be still considerable at present.


Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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