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Sanford's Sea-eagle
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Falconiformes (or Accipitriformes, q.v.)
Family: Accipitridae
Genus: Haliaeetus
Species: H. sanfordi
Binomial name
Haliaeetus sanfordi
Mayr, 1935

The Sanford's Sea-eagle (Haliaeetus sanfordi), sometimes listed as Sanford's Fish-eagle or Solomon Eagle, is a sea-eagle endemic to the Solomon Islands. The "sea-eagle" name is to be preferred, to distinguish the species of Haliaeetus from the closely related Ichthyophaga true fish eagles.[1]


The Sanford's Sea-eagle was discovered by and named after Dr. Leonard C. Sanford, a trustee for the American Museum of Natural History. The first description was by Ernst Mayr in 1935. It can reach a length between 70 and 90 cm and a weight between 2.3 and 2.7 kg. The wingspan is between 165 and 185 cm. It is the only large predator on the Solomon Islands. The eagles inhabits coastal forests and lakes up to an altitude of about 1500 m asl.[1]

The plumage is whitish brown to bright brown on the head and the neck. The underparts are brown to reddish brown and dark brown. The upperparts are darkish brown to gray-black. The eyes are bright brown. Uniquely among sea-eagles, this species has an entirely dark tail throughout its life.

The breeding season is from August to October. The nest consists of two eggs.

The diet consists of mainly of tideline carrion, fish, molluscs, crabs, tortoises, and sea snakes, and more rarely birds and fruit-bats snatched from the rain-forest canopy.[1] It has also been reported to feed opportunistically on the Northern Common Cuscus.[2]

It forms a superspecies with the White-bellied Sea-eagle. As in other sea-eagle species pairs, the other taxon is white-headed. These two are genetically very close, it seems; their lineages separated not longer ago than 1 mya, probably only in the Middle Pleistocene, a few 100,000 years ago (Wink et al., 1996[3]). Both share a dark bill, talons, and eyes with the other Gondwanan sea-eagles.

This eagle is often illustrated on postage stamps of the Solomon Islands.




  1. ^ a b c del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., & Sargatal, J., eds. (1994). Handbook of the Birds of the World Vol. 2. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona ISBN 84-87334-15-6.
  2. ^ Heinsohn, Tom (2000). "Predation by the White-breasted Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster on Phalangerid Possums in New Ireland, Papua New Guinea". Emu 100 (3): 245–246. doi:10.1071/MU00913 .  
  3. ^ Note that the author's reservation about the high rate of molecular evolution have proven well justified; the 2% per 4 million years seem if anything an overestimate. In addition, as the provenance of specimens is not noted, genetic introgression due to hybridzation cannot be excluded, as the species' ranges touch. This is unlikely due to marked differences in behavior and habitat preferences however.


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