Family Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)


Sanford's Sea-eagle (Haliaeetus sanfordi)


French: Pygargue de Sanford German: Salomonenseeadler Spanish: Pigargo de las Salomón
Other common names: Solomons Sea-eagle, Sanford's Fish-eagle

Haliaeetus sanfordi


, 1935,

Choiseul Island, Solomons


Genetically close to H. leucogaster, suggesting recent isolation, or ongoing or recent introgression, although they are not known to come into contact#R. Molecular analysis suggests that this form differs from H. leucogaster by as little as 0.3%#R, prompting the suggestion (following occasional earlier treatments) that the two are conspecific#R. However, adult sanfordi differs from adult leucogaster in its brown (not white) head, underparts and tail (3), brown (not grey) wings, this extending to the tail (3), decidedly smaller size (female sanfordi 2270–2725 g vs female leucogaster 2900–3400 g) (1), and different ratio of wing length to tail length (range for both sexes, in mm: sanfordi wing 519–575, tail 245–295, leucogaster wing 526–633, tail 208–298) (1). The two may even be considered parapatric (score 3), as they replace each other across a narrow sea gap (crossed by many terrestrial bird species) between Nissan I and Buka I#R. Present species is not a paedomorphic race of leucogaster, as adults lack the spotting found in juveniles of both taxa#R. Monotypic.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.

Solomon Is, including Bougainville I and Buka I.

Descriptive notes

70–90 cm; male 1100–1980 g, female 1300–2725 g; wingspan 165–185 cm . Rather small fish-eagle, with strong bill, longish neck, short legs, and shorter... read more


Considered noisy when breeding; main vocalization a high-pitched honking "ya-ya-ya...". read more


Coastal, lowland and montane forests, open human-modified habitats, and riverine areas through... read more

Food and feeding

Diet somewhat variable, depending on accessibility of prey; includes northern common cuscus (Phalanger orientalis), fruit-bats (... read more


Courtship in Jun and Aug. Advertising display consists of bird rocking sideways with wings held in V and legs dangling down, while... read more


Unknown. Adults presumably sedentary, as inferred from isolation, morphology and lack of records... read more

Status and conservation

VULNERABLE. CITES II. Generally rare to scarce and uncommon; locally somewhat more common in undisturbed habitats where not persecuted; scarce or absent where subject to... read more

Recommended citation

Debus, S., Kirwan, G.M. & Christie, D.A. (2019). Sanford's Sea-eagle (Haliaeetus sanfordi). 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 19 May 2019).