The lesser spotted eagle (Clanga pomarina) is a medium-sized eagle, about 60 cm (24 in) in length and with a wingspan of 150 cm, larger than the common buzzard (Buteo buteo).
The behavior and the modus vivendi of this eagle are very different from what the public generally thinks of the eagles. The lesser spotted eagle is not a resident bird in Romania like the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) or the white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla). During the breeding season (from April to September), lesser spotted eagles inhabit areas in Romania. In winter the birds migrate to the warmer climates of South Africa.
Its 20,000 km journey is rather dangerous, as the bird has to fly twice a year through territories like Syria, Lebanon or Sudan, which threaten its life. In recent years, new obstacles - wind farms built on the migration route (in Turkey, Bulgaria, but also in Romania) can pose serious threats to the birds.
During their migration the lesser spotted eagles form large flocks, where thousands of birds fly together. Their migration pattern is quite exquisite. They do not use active flying as a means of “traveling”, but use the thermals (rising currents of warm air) and glide, saving energy for their long journey. This way of flying can be used only above land, as above the seas and large waters thermals do not form. The lesser spotted eagles, like the white stork (Ciconia ciconia), avoid flying above seas. Where the land narrows – e.g. Bosphorus – the flocks, flying on a larger surface, co-mingle. The people of Istanbul can witness this spectacular sight twice a year – if they even pay attention to it.
The lesser spotted eagle is not an aggressive bird, hunts small mammals and similar terrestrial prey. The amphibians and insects are also “important” elements of its diet. During the winter, in Africa, it hunts red-billed quelea (Quelea quelea), the termites are eaten with the same “appetite”.
The breeding distribution of the birds is restricted to Eastern Europe.
There are 2200-2300 pairs in Romania, which means roughly 22% of the European population. 20 years ago the population was only 100-200 pairs, 10 years later it grew up to 500-1000 pairs. Unfortunately the population of eagles did not grow, the calculations were extremely wrong in the past. The majority of birds can be found in the southeastern part of Transylvania.
The Transylvanian landscape is preserved in almost its original and natural form, this is why the lesser spotted eagle finds it “home” here. Generally the birds prefer to nest in old oak-hornbeam forests, often situated in valleys. On foothills and higher altitudes eagles prefer beech, mixed, but also spruce forest. Lucky for the birds and for us, Transylvania still has beautiful places like this.
In my opinion the hilly and mountainous landscapes, where agricultural areas alternate with lawns and deciduous forests are the most beautiful sides of Transylvania and in the same time there are the true homes of the eagles.