This Photo by Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons
The white-bellied Sea-Eagle has been sited in the Mitta Valley in the Dartmouth Dam area.
Few Australian birds of prey are as spectacular as the White-bellied Sea-Eagle. Although it is similar in shape to the well-known Wedge-tailed Eagle, and almost as large, the sea-eagle is readily distinguished by its contrasting crisp-white and ashy-grey plumage, which adds to its striking appearance as it soars effortlessly on its up tilted broad wings. The large, hooked bill is grey with a darker tip, and the eye is dark brown. The legs and feet are cream-white, with long black talons (claws). It has a wingspan of about 2 meters. Like many raptors the female is slightly larger than the male. The immature birds have brown plumage which is gradually replaced by white by its fourth year.
This Photo by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service
Despite its name, the sea-eagle is not confined to coastal areas, and the species is regularly recorded at terrestrial wetlands far from the sea, especially along larger inland rivers and at freshwater swamps and lakes. Hence why they have made their homes at Dartmouth. The white-bellied Sea-eagle are normally seen perched high in a tree or soaring over waterways and adjacent land. Birds form permanent pairs that inhabit territories throughout the year. In addition to Australia, the species is found in New Guinea, Indonesia, China, south-east Asia and India.
The White-bellied Sea-Eagle feeds mainly off aquatic animals, such as fish, turtles and sea snakes, but it takes birds and mammals as well. It is a skilled hunter and will attack prey up to the size of a young swan. Sea-Eagles also feed on carrion (dead prey) such as sheep and fish along the waterline. They harass smaller birds, forcing them to drop any food that they are carrying. Sea-Eagles feed alone, in pairs or in family groups. While hunting over water on sunny days it often flies directly into the sun seemingly to avoid casting shadows over the water and hence alerting potential prey.
White-bellied Sea-Eagles build a large stick nest with good visibility which is used for many seasons in succession. The nest can be in a tree up to 30m above the ground but may also be placed on the ground or on rocks, where there are no suitable trees. At the start of the breeding season, the nest is lined with fresh green leaves and twigs. The pair will spend three to six weeks building and renovating the nest before laying eggs. The clutch is incubated over six weeks The female carries out most of the incubation of the white eggs, but the male performs this duty from time to time. Initially the male brings the food and the female feeds the chicks but both parents feed the chicks as they grow older. The species breeds from six years of age onwards and are thought to live to be around 30 years old. Nestlings have been recorded fledgling when 70 to 80 days old and remaining around the parents for up to 6 months.
The birds make a loud goose like honking call. It’s a familiar sound particularly during the breeding season when pairs often honk in unison and often carry on for some time when perched.
Unfortunately, the white bellied sea eagle is vulnerable in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania but secure in WA and QLD. Its vulnerability comes from habitat destruction, nest disturbance and environmental pollution.
Birdlife Australia website
Field Guide to Australian Birds -Michael Morcombe