Ornate Hawk-Eagle in flight at Bonilla Arriba

Ornate Hawk-Eagle (Spizaetus ornatus): Aguilillo penachudo; Prachtadler; Aigle orné

Is it an eagle or is it a hawk? Good question. The French and Germans call it an eagle, the Spanish call it a ‘little eagle’, and we English speakers stay in limbo with hawk-eagle. Anyway, this is the species whose nest site at Monteverde is being televised nation-wide in Costa Rica at the moment. One must hope that the site isn’t disturbed by too many curious visitors.

And yesterday, quite coincidentally, Milena Beer spotted an unfamiliar raptor in flight on a visit to Bonilla Arriba on the Turrialba Volcano slope. Husband John was able to take these photos of an immature Ornate Hawk-Eagle:

Immature Ornate Hawk-Eagle in flight; photo by John Beer

Seen from below the first impression of the juvenile ornatus is of a mostly white bird with a barred tail:

In the next photograph the young bird was heard calling with a loud, whistled scream:

Ornate Hawk-Eagle; photo by John Beer

Finally, the bird turned and wheeled away but not before John managed a final pic of the rarely seen immature plumage of this species:

Immature Ornate Hawk-Eagle spreads its tail to give an excellent view of the dark bars

The Ornate Hawk-Eagle’s range extends through forest environments from Mexico south as far as northern Argentina. I myself have had several very enjoyable encounters since at least one pair nests locally, probably in the forest of the Espino Blanco Reserve. This is where neighbour Sue Magree took the following photo of an adult bird a few years ago.

I include it in today’s post to show how the plumage of adult birds differs markedly from the whitish plumage of immatures. It is much darker and shows much bolder colour contrasts, including chestnut on the head and shoulders, and heavy dark barring on the white underparts. The spiked crest, when raised, is a striking feature on the perched bird and makes the Latin epithet ‘ornatus‘ a most fitting one.

Adult Ornate Hawk-Eagle at Espino Blanco Reserve; photo by Sue Magree

Also featured in an earlier post of mine, but well worth repeating, is this image of an adult that surprised John Beer at Aquiares not far from his house:

Adult Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Aquiares; photo by John Beer

This powerfully built bird is said to take prey up to twice its own weight, mostly mammals. This consists primarily of small to medium-sized mammals but also birds and lizards. While it is an uncommon species throughout its range, the Ornate Hawk-Eagle is not really considered a rare species in our area – the perched bird is however a truly unforgettable sight!

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