Has anyone has ever seen a White-bellied Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) snatching a rat out from a monsoon drain? Eddy Lee Kam Pang has. He chanced upon the incident when an adult eagle flew down into a monsoon drain at Bukit Panjang on 12th May 2008 in pursuit of a rat.
“I got blown-away by the action of this bird as to what was it doing in a monsoon drain whose water level was extremely low at the time. Certainly an unlikely place to find a sizable fish,” mused Eddy.
“The eagle was unfortunately out of sight from where I was standing. A moment later, it re-emerged with an unusual cargo in its talons…a rat (above)! And flew off with it (below).
“The rat must have been caught off-guard while scavenging for scraps as the eagle swiftly slipped in from above. This bird was usually seen taking fishes but rat was my first time. Its usual diet includes fish, turtles and sea snakes
“Though I had read an earlier article of this species ripping off a swimming rat out of the sea at Changi, this was not caught from the sea or even pond or lake..
“The eagle might be testing its skills trying to catch something different or perhaps just a change of taste?”
White-bellied Sea Eagle is reported to take mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and carrion. However, the main foods are fish and sea snake. Consider that this eagle is an opportunistic feeder, it should not be a surprise that it also eats rat. Obviously, in urban Singapore, the eagle has adapted well to feed on a rat caught in a monsoon drain.
1. Thiollay, J. M. (1994). Family Accipitridae (Hawks and Eagles). Pp. 52-205 in del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Sargatal, J. eds. Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 2. New world vultures to guineafowl. Barcelona: Lynx Editions.
2. Wells, D.R. (1999). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsular. Vol. I, Non-passerines. Academic Press, London.