White-bellied Sea Eagle foraging in monsoon drain

on 18th May 2008


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.

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.

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

3 Responses

  1. Eddy, are these photos yours? And are they of the eagle you mentioned in your blog?
    I am a resident of Bukit Panjang and I have been eyeing these birds of prey for the longest time (yes – “Cat eyeing the Birds”). There seems to have been an increase in their numbers over the years around that area. I often get to see them flying really low and not because they are diving to grab their grub. Two weeks ago I spotted at least 2 adults and 1 juvenile flying in between blocks.
    There are also at least 2 other species of birds of prey that I have spotted perched on the roofs of the blocks in my neck of the neighbourhood. Have not got binoculars so it can get tough for me to take a closer look at them.

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