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Common Name : Mountain Hawk-Eagle     -       Scientific Name : Spizaetus nipalensis kelaarti       -       Other Name : Legge’s Hawk-Eagle (E), Maha Kondarajaliya (S)
10/18/2019
10/18/2019
10/18/2019

This magnificent eagle is found only in Western Ghats of India and foothills to the highest hills in Sri Lanka. It is not a species that is seen regularly even in its range.

The conservation status of this species is regarded as “Vulnerable” (National Red List 2012).

This is a species strictly protected in terms of schedule IV read with section 31 of the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance as amended by Act No. 22 of 2009.

On the 18th of October 2019 I entered the park on a game drive with Namal Kamalgoda. Around 2.36pm while on Kumbuk Wila upper road a large eagle flew up on to a tree ahead of the vehicle. I noted that it was larger than a Crested Hawk Eagle. Upon looking through my Binoculars I was surprised to note that it was a Mountain Hawk Eagle (now referred to as Legg’s Hawk Eagle). Thankfully Namal and I both managed to get a few images.  The horizontal barrings on the breast area and its very large and powerful legs, with enormous claws made the identification easy. This was my first record of this species in the park. I have seen this species in the Peak Wilderness, Sinharaja, Morapitiya, Ytiyanthota (Dolosbage Forest), Gongala, Haldummulla, Horton Plains, and Knukles range and at Nuwara eliya. The lowest altitude at which I have seen it has been at the Kaleni Wally forest reserve at Kitulgala at 110 meters. However all my records of this species have been in the hills or foot hills in the wet zone. In May 1998 I along with Mr. Chandima Kahandawela observed a nest of this species for two days at the Kaleni wally forest reserve in Kitulgala. The nest had one grown immature. This species is not known to occur in the dry zone. However In May 2018 a stunning image of this species had been captured by Dr. Kalana at Wilpattu near Wilanda Wala and there is also another reliable sight record by Uditha Hettige of the Ceylon Bird Club from Sigiriya.
Considering that this is the beginning of the migrant season and that the region experienced a few storms I wonder whether there is a possibility for this bird to be from the mainland.

This is a very rarely seen species in Wilpattu.