White-bellied Sea Eagle learning to fish

A White-bellied Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) was documented by Wei Chun a.k.a. speedblade, catching a fish around Bukit Panjang (above). Apparently, the eagle was not very experienced in catching fish. Or was it a bad day for the bird?

This eagle is an opportunistic feeder, catching a wide range of mainly aquatic vertebrates, including reptiles, fish, birds and mammals. It also takes carrion, floating refuse and wastes in rubbish dumps.


It usually hunts from a high perch by the water. Once a prey is spotted, the bird zooms down and grabs it with one foot (above left). It may barely break the water surface but occasionally it may become totally or partially submerged, as in this case (above right).


The four powerful toes armed with strongly curved, sharp claws allow the bird to grasp prey, especially slippery fish. And it did grab the fish when it landed in the water (above). The under surface of the toes have folds and/or bumps to make it easy to grasp slippery prey, but somehow the fish slipped from the eagle’s grasp (above right) and fell into the water (below left).


Undeterred, the eagle tried again (above right). In fact it tried at least six times before it finally had the fish firmly in its talons, flying off to its perch to feast.

All images by Wei Chun.

This post is a cooperative effort between www.naturepixels.org and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.

5 Responses

  1. Joseph Lai

    Wow! Awesome! Wei Chun, congrats on a fine piece of documentation! Well done!

    Joseph Lai

  2. carrion feeder

    […] on the Pro Tour. Luckily, Wizards of the Coast and a score of reporters from all over the internetBird Ecology Study Group White-bellied Sea Eagle learning …This eagle is an opportunistic feeder, catching a wide range of mainly aquatic … It also takes […]

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