Family Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)

Least Concern

Changeable Hawk-eagle (Nisaetus cirrhatus)


French: Aigle huppé German: Indienhaubenadler Spanish: Águila variable

Falco cirrhatus

J. F. Gmelin

, 1788,



Until recently, considered conspecific with N. floris, which now is treated as a full species because of its greater size (wing length 430–462 mm vs 365–426 mm#R) (allow 2); white colouration throughout much of body plumage (3); and tail with 6 (not 4–5) bars#R (2). Race limnaeetus (incorporating andamanensis and vanheurni) sometimes considered a separate species on grounds of plumage and lack of crest, but behaviour appears to be identical; moreover, andamanensis is more or less intermediate between nominate W group and the N & E limnaeetus group, perhaps representing a transitional stage#R. Five subspecies normally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • N. c. cirrhatus (J. F. Gmelin, 1788) – Crested Hawk-eagle – India S of Rajasthan and Gangetic Plain.
  • N. c. ceylanensis (J. F. Gmelin, 1788) – Sri Lanka.
  • N. c. andamanensis (Tytler, 1865) – Andaman Is.
  • N. c. limnaeetus (Horsfield, 1821) – Changeable Hawk-eagle – N India and Nepal E through Bangladesh, Myanmar, Indochina and Malay Peninsula to Greater Sundas and W & SE Philippines (Palawan, Mindoro, Mindanao).
  • N. c. vanheurni (Junge, 1936) – Simeulue I (off W Sumatra).
  • Descriptive notes

    51–82 cm; 1300–1900 g; wingspan 100–160 cm. Typical hawk eagle occurring in two forms, crested and crestless. Dark brown above, and heavily streaked dark on... read more


    Generally silent, except in the breeding season. Commonest call is a series of piping whistles with... read more


    Deciduous and evergreen forest, as well as secondary forest, gallery forest, savanna, forested... read more

    Food and feeding

    Small and large birds, snakes, frogs, lizards and mammals; mammals include squirrels, rats, hares, and occasionally monkeys and... read more


    Season varies: usually Dec–May on Borneo, Sumatra, Sri Lanka and Malay Peninsula; Nov–May in India; Apr–Aug on Java;... read more


    Considered sedentary. Ten seen over migration site in Bali, Indonesia, in Oct 1990 tentatively... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Widespread and apparently common to uncommon throughout extensive range, although insular races andamanensis and... read more

    Recommended citation

    Clark, W.S., Boesman, P. & Marks, J.S. (2020). Changeable Hawk-eagle (Nisaetus cirrhatus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 26 February 2020).