White-bellied Sea Eagle: Early nesting behaviour

posted in: Nesting, Raptors, Videography | 4

“A short write-up on a section of forest at Pasir Ris near Elias Road which houses at least three White-bellied Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) nests… No eagle chicks seen in any of the nests yet. 
I would not normally post locations of bird nests but these are high and far away enough to be out of reach of ‘flashy’ and otherwise destructive photographers/enthusiasts.

“I had known, through a friend, of one White-bellied Sea Eagle nest (with a pair of eagles in residence) near the edge of the forest near Paris Ris Heights. The nest is visible from Elias Road (above).

eagle clip 1 – nest landg w food from SgBeachBum on Vimeo.

“A short clip of a nest showing the eagle looking around before flying off (above). I did not know that eagles are able to twist their heads 180 degrees. I had thought that only owls were capable of that. You can see this in the clip before the bird flies off. (shot on 02Jan2012@7.13pm)

nest #1- eagle in nest from SgBeachBum on Vimeo.

“…and a short clip of an eagle from the same nest resting on a branch above the nest (shot on 02Jan2012@7.15pm; possibly the same eagle as in the preceding clip( (above).

nest #1 – eagle on branch from SgBeachBum on Vimeo.

“However, the eagles were elusive in that they would refuse to visit the nest if anyone was close by i.e. if one tried to walk up the adjacent hillock. I decided against that approach and since I had seen the eagles flying in the skies above the neighbourhood and above the tree-tops, I thought that a nearby HDB block would give a good view of the birds in flight.

“The 13th floor of Block 626 does present a spectacular view of the forest adjacent to Pasir Ris Farmway 1 although nest the nest itself was obscured by foliage (above).

“What I did not realise was that it was not only a great vantage spot to various birds flying in and out of the forest, but that it enabled one to spot other large nests in the upper layer of the trees. There were two nests clearly visible from the 13th floor. One was a very large nest (below left) which was partially obscured surrounded by leafy branches. The other nest (below right) was much further away and it was in the fork of a tree with an unobstructed view.

“Both nests were empty when I first spotted them. The older larger nest was probably a lot older having been reused over many years.

“However, the green of the treetops was soon interrupted by a pair of large black and white wings returning to the larger nest. Shortly thereafter, another pair of wings joined the first at the same nest. Both eagles stayed in the nest for a couple of minutes before one flew off into the foliage of the trees nearby. Then the other followed suit but with what looked like the remains of a longish fish in its beak. They disappeared into the foliage below the nest. However, I could hear the unmistakeable squawking of the eagles and shifted my viewpoint towards the left end of the corridor. I was just in time to see one eagle mount the other eagle on a branch somewhere below the nest. It took just a few seconds and then the male (presumably) eagle took its position beside the other eagle (presumably female).

“The picture shows the two eagles ex-post facto with the male on the right partially hidden by the tree with the female looking at him (above).

Here is a short clip of the two lovebirds (below).

nest #2 – two eagles @ pasir ris from SgBeachBum on Vimeo.

“The smaller nest had been empty all this time but one (I’m assuming there is a pair) of it’s resident eagles had flown in and was busy pecking (eating) at something and occasionally looking around. Below is a short vidclip of the eagle at the nest.

nest #3 eagle @ pasir ris from SgBeachBum on Vimeo.

“It was surprising to know that the three nests were all within about 150m to 300m of each other. This patch of forest was able to support the nest building and maintenance of three nests by the three pairs of eagles (although I have not seen the other eagle at the smaller, older nest).

“I hope there are no plans to develop any part of the forest. Let’s hope the forest is left alone as it has for the past 18 years at least. That’s what a resident said as she moved in 18 years ago and the trees were all much shorter providing her with an clear view whereas now, the view has become blocked by the taller trees which the eagles seem to prefer.

“An adjacent forested plot of land across Elias Road has been earmarked for sale by the Housing and Development Board and there is a large billboard highlighting the pending sale for condominium development (above).

eagle forest from SgBeachBum on Vimeo.

“A short video pan of the eagle forest from left to right is shown above. The leftmost part of the forest is on Mindef ‘shoot-you-on-sight-red-billboard’ land. However, the rightmost part bordering Elias Road is not.

“I suppose living in a land-starved country poses greatly conflicting land-use issues and a balance is sometimes impossible to manage. Pity the white-bellied sea eagles are not rare birds but rather common. Indeed they are seen as pests around Changi Airport due to their large size and the potential impact on jet engines and airline safety.

“Forest habitat loss will probably push them from mainland Singapore eventually except for already threatened pockets around the Central Catchment areas and other minor forested areas.

“Last Chance to See and appreciate the Eagle Forest!

“From brief observations over a couple of days, flights usually are prevalent in the mornings with the birds flying in and out until about 1pm. Thereafter its siesta time until about 5.30pm whereupon it’s flight time again until about 7pm when they seem to perch on nearby trees for the night. These birds have been seen coasting the Pasir Ris coast and flying between Pasir Ris and Pulau Ubin sometimes in pairs.”

Andy Dinesh
4th January 2012

4 Responses

  1. cherry

    Hi Dinesh,

    I am very impressed by your photos and write up.
    We are very concern for the survival of the beautiful eagles and the rich wildlife on this Pasir Ris Greenbelt.
    Would appreciate if you could contact us on 83354765 on the 11th June after 18th June as we will be away.
    Look forward to meeting up and we could share our thoughts to what we could do.

    • cherry

      Sorry….I mean to write that we are contactable after 18th June.
      Thank you

  2. Cherry

    Hi Dinesh ans all Nature Lovers,
    We are embarking on a Petiton to Save the Woodlands of Pasir Ris Drive 3.
    It is a rich woodlands sustaining a huge variety of wildlife.
    Do contact us on 83354765 to join us to save the Green-lung of Pasir Ris.

    • Am

      Hi Cherry, is there any other way of getting in touch other than calling? Do you have a website? I’d like to join this cause.

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