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A relatively large and slender eagle, the white-bellied sea eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) is a grey and white bird of prey with long, broad wings and a short, wedge- or diamond-shaped tail. The head, neck and underparts of this impressive species are white, whereas the back and upper surface of the black-tipped wings are grey. The white-bellied sea eagle’s tail has a grey or blackish base and a white tip. The white-bellied sea eagle’s large, hooked beak is bluish-grey, grey or dark grey and has a blackish tip. The patch of skin at the base of the beak, which is known as the cere, is light bluish-grey to dark grey, and the eyes are brown. White or cream-coloured legs and feet, which are distinctly unfeathered on the lower portion, give way to black talons. Male and female white-bellied sea eagles are similar in appearance, although females tend to be larger than males. However, juveniles of this species look quite different from the adults, with their colouration gradually changing over the first few years as they complete several moults, becoming increasingly paler until they attain the adult colouration. Young white-bellied sea eagles are dark brown on the upperparts, which are patterned with creamy markings. The head, neck and underparts have a creamy or buffish colouration, and the underwings have a large, pale patch or panel across the base of theprimary feathers. Unlike that of the adult, the juvenile white-bellied sea eagle’s tail is whitish with a broad brownish band on the tip. The cere, legs and feet are similar in colour to those of the adult bird. Sometimes soaring to great heights, the white-bellied sea eagle is known to glide with its wings held in a stiff ‘V’ shape. This species flies with strong wingbeats described as being like a powerful rowing action. At rest, the white-bellied fish eagle perches upright on bare branches close to water. The white-bellied sea eagle has a very distinctive call, which has been described as being a loud, goose-like honk or cackle. This species is particularly noisy around the nesting site during the breeding season, and juvenile white-bellied sea eagles begging for food add to the noise by giving a prolonged yelping or wailing cry. An efficient predator, the white-bellied sea eagle often catches its prey by performing spectacular swoops. The white-bellied sea eagle generally feeds on aquatic species, from fish and sea snakes to turtles and water birds, but may occasionally take terrestrial species, including livestock. Generally a coastal species, the white-bellied sea eagle can also be found further inland along rivers and lakes.

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