Iberianature Forum

Birds of Iberia. Big, little, floaters, stoopers and soarers => Birdlife in Iberia => Topic started by: paulmatthews on December 23, 2007, 10:02 AM

Title: What Eagle/Vulture?
Post by: paulmatthews on December 23, 2007, 10:02 AM
I was out walking in the Mountains and saw an eagle which had white circles under its wings? can any of the forum experts tell me what it was?

Title: Re: What Eagle/Vulture?
Post by: Dave on December 23, 2007, 11:09 AM
hi Paul
Sounds like a Buzzard (Esp; Ratonero) to me, or possibly a juvenile Golden Eagle (Esp: Aguila real) or finally a Honey Buzzard (Esp; Abejero Europeo)
But there again, Peter SEO Ronda, or John C usually put us right on these things.
Title: Re: What Eagle/Vulture?
Post by: nick on December 23, 2007, 11:12 AM
Young golden eagles have white blotches under their wings. Could that be it?

Title: Re: What Eagle/Vulture?
Post by: John C on December 23, 2007, 13:51 PM
I fear that the description may be too vague to allow confident identification.  That said, my first reaction was "Golden Eagle!" for reasons that the photo posted by Nick amply illustrates. However, another raptor species that san show a bold white wing patch is Red Kite.  I'm not confident that Buzzard can be absolutely eliminated since the pale underwing can look very bold in some lights. 

Any further details - tail shape, body colour etc - would be helpful,

Title: Re: What Eagle/Vulture?
Post by: paulmatthews on December 23, 2007, 16:36 PM
Thanks for the replies but this bird looked black in the sky with a white circle under each wing, almost looked like round headlights. I was high up in the Mountains in Bedar, Almeria.
Title: Re: What Eagle/Vulture?
Post by: Clive on December 23, 2007, 19:03 PM
Hi all

At this time of year it should be possible to narrow the bird down to just a few species...

Griffon vulture
Golden eagle
European common buzzard
honey buzzard? (note question mark.. personal theory only)
Bonelli's eagle

I reckon it has to be Golden, Bonelli's or a buzzard

Try some image googling Paul and see what you come up with..

More info is needed though, terrain you were in, altitude etc....


Title: Re: What Eagle/Vulture?
Post by: John C on December 23, 2007, 19:28 PM
Assuming the bird was seen recently, Honey Buzzards, would be long gone.  I don't think Griffon Vulture is a likely candidate either since I've never seen one with distinct white circles/patches on the wing.   Although Bonelli's can show discrete paler areas on the 'hand' I wouldn't have thought they'd be so striking as they seem to be on this bird.  Buzzards do, it is true show white/pale underwing markings, but they are usually more extensive than than the description here would suggest.  In this respect Red Kite fits the bill more closely.   Golden Eagle, though, would still be my favoured option.

Incidentally, I've rather assumed that these markings you describe are on the 'hand'  (that is at the base of the primaries or 'fingers'),

Title: Re: What Eagle/Vulture?
Post by: Dave on December 23, 2007, 19:48 PM
Hi everyone
A photo of a red kite showing the white patches clearly alongside a black kite very similar, to be honest I think if it was one of these, you would have commented n the forked tale, which is less pronounced in the Black. As an aside we have quite a few red kites around at the moment, whereas in summer they tend to be mostly blacks
Title: Re: What Eagle/Vulture?
Post by: paulmatthews on December 24, 2007, 21:01 PM
Thanks for the replies but the bird was not the colourings of those in any of the photos, its white circles were in the middle of the underwing, I've seen it in August and December . I'll try and get a photo next time I see it. My friend is a serious Twitcher so I've asked her about it, I'll post her opinions on here., no criticism to anyone, but it was so distinctive with the white circullar markings that I have to find out what it was.

Happy Christmas :santa_huh:
Title: Re: What Eagle/Vulture?
Post by: Clive on December 24, 2007, 23:13 PM
Curiouser and curiouser

So is this a bird of prey? Was it soaring or gliding? What size would you estimate? Size of a sparrow, pigeon or a mallard? Bigger than a seagull?

Basically you have us all thinking of a large raptor with white markings on the under wing but maybe this bird you have seen is not a bird of prey?

I think that if it is a bird of prey then it has been suggested here (there are only a handful of species to suggest and they are all fairly easy to recognise) which is why i am coming to the conclusion that it may be something else..


Title: Re: What Eagle/Vulture?
Post by: paulmatthews on December 24, 2007, 23:52 PM
Thanks Clive, It was gliding, and I have seen and recognised many eagles, vultures and buzzards, I have read about migratory raptors and this bird is still a mystery to me. It was gliding at the highest altitude in Almeria but when I spotted it, or another like it in August, it was gliding at lower altitudes. Maybe it was something other than what has been suggested, I don't know what it was but I'm determined to find out, I will post again when I have a better idea. incidently both times I have spotted it there was white circles on the middle of its underwing, almost like round headlights on a small car. It glided over a massive area without using its wings to fly, which gave me a good look at it and thats why I'm sure it had the white circles on its underwing. I lived near leeds for along time and am used to seeing Red Kites around Harewood, it was not a Red Kite.
Title: Re: What Eagle/Vulture?
Post by: Clive on December 25, 2007, 00:04 AM
How about...

The Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus... The link below has some images and detailed descriptions



Title: Re: What Eagle/Vulture?
Post by: Clive on December 25, 2007, 00:12 AM
Or rough legged buzzard?

Title: Re: What Eagle/Vulture?
Post by: John C on December 25, 2007, 00:57 AM
Since both Rough-legged and Long-legged Buzzard are extremely rare birds in Spain both are very unlikely to be the bird involved - particularly as Common Buzzard often shows equally well marked pale patches on the 'hand'.   Paul's most recent comments have added new information which I'll try to digest and come back with fresh ideas.  Trouble is I can't think of any European (or world!) raptor with such markings and am struggling to think of a raptor-like broad winged bird that would fit!

Title: Re: What Eagle/Vulture?
Post by: Clive on December 25, 2007, 10:39 AM
Clutching at straws I am JohnC as I cannot think of what this bird is especially as Paul has experience of seeing vultures, eagles and kites...

I was about to suggest one of those pigeons that get painted...... They sometimes have RAF style patterns.. jejejeje

Title: Re: What Eagle/Vulture?
Post by: John C on December 26, 2007, 15:08 PM
Back to the bird with "white circles on the middle of its underwing .... ".  Having racked what passes for my brain and browsed my various field guides, I can find no raptor with such markings.  In fact, given that I have field guides to Europe, America (N & S), Australia & NZ, Asia Africa  plus the standard Helm book on raptors, I think I'm safe to say that no raptor actually has circles in the middle of the underwing!   Looking through the same guides plus specialist books on storks, herons, etc also drew a blank. 

I think, then, that we're left with only two possible conclusions; either the marks were some sort of staining or an illusion caused by some odd angle of the light.   Given that the bird was seen more than once and that the angle of view must have changed, I think the former is more likely.  I've seen egrets with pink and swans with yellow staining (both part of a scientific investigation), but not heard of any similar strategy used which produces the regular circular markings described.  Without a photo or more systematic and detailed description, I think that's as far as I can go,

Title: Re: What Eagle/Vulture?
Post by: paulmatthews on December 30, 2007, 18:45 PM
Thanks for the replies, after studying the link below I think the nearest bird to the one I have seen is the Golden Eagle as suggested by some of you. In the photos of Goled Eagles there are some which look like white circles on the underwing.


Change language to English and search for Golden Eagle. The photos will appear
Title: Re: What Eagle/Vulture?
Post by: Andy P on October 05, 2008, 19:02 PM
Dear Bird enthusiasts - especially Paul Matthews

Firstly, I am not a twitcher but a climber who just enjoys the great outdoors and the local flora and fauna.  I was climbing in Glacier National Park Montana USA (1st Oct 08) with a friend and as we started to descend Mt Vaught at 8850ft we both noticed 2 dark looking raptor-like birds at a distance below us.  The birds were soaring effortlessly in the mountain thermals before we lost them behind the surrounding crags. They then reappeared behind and above us - giving us both a clear view of the underwing coloration & markings.  We were both amazed to see that both birds were dark in coloration but had definite circles of white in the middle of each wing on the underside (just as Paul Matthews describes (mini Headlights) on his entry on this subject on Dec 24th 07) - additionally I noted a small band of white on the tail feathers which were broad & triangular in shape.  Both birds had the same identical and distinct markings and also engaged in a little talon jousting before disappearing out of sight - sadly i was not quick enough with the camera :speechless: Since returning home I have looked at some bird books and although temptation leads possibly to 'juvenile Golden Eagle' the underwing markings look too regular and defined....  I then searched the web and found this interesting debate within Iberianature...  After 16 replies, it appears that the conclusion to Paul M's question was not exactly 100% - so with new sightings of these large birds, does anyone out there have more to add....?

Many Thanks

Andy P
Title: Re: What Eagle/Vulture?
Post by: Maria on October 07, 2008, 17:37 PM
Hi there, funny this post should arrive as . . . . .

One of our guides was out between 2500m and 3000m in the Sierra Nevada 2 weeks ago and came back telling us he had seen a pair of big birds with distinct white circles in the middle of the wing seen from below. My searchings  :booklook: led me to believe it was a juvenile golden eagle  :noidea: so im interested to find out more on what happens here. I will try and get more details from our guide which may help.

Title: Re: What Eagle/Vulture?
Post by: Pedro Benissa on March 23, 2018, 23:54 PM
Hi there, new member. I myself saw this very bird yesterday whilst out walking and finding hard to name it. It was a BIG bird, dark wings with a quite large obvious round white circle under each wing. I'd seen it at distance which is why I know it to be large, but 10 mins later briefly saw it overhead when circles or diamonds were noticed. I was in the Benissa area walking alongside the AP-7 Highway, has anyone else found or spotted this large raptor? Cheers.
Title: Re: What Eagle/Vulture?
Post by: Pedro Benissa on March 24, 2018, 09:52 AM
Hi again. I think Paul (original poster) found the right conclusion himself. I've further studied his own added page on Golden Eagles and the pictures do look extremely like the one I saw. I said to my partner Joan, I "think" it had fingers, although she didn't totally agree, but I'm happy that was the very bird. That would explain it's HUGE size. To spot it as far away as I did in the first instance, and then with it passing overhead much closer up, it was wonderful to see albeit very, very briefly. I presume they are territorial so if back walking that way again iI may be spotted again. For your own info, it was slightly West of the Font de la Mata area, walking the start of the Riberers Route from Benissa to Gata. Many thanks, sorry if I've dragged on! Cheers!
Title: Re: What Eagle/Vulture?
Post by: Clive on March 24, 2018, 14:56 PM
Hi Pedro and welcome to the forum..... :)

I am 99 percent sure that the bird described in the original post is a golden eagle..... Never can be sure without a good image but a process of eliminiation rules out every other raptor...