Crested Hawk Eagle – Jewel of Canopy


Crested Hawk Eagles are magnificent raptors found hoovering around the canopies of Southern Asia, Indonesia, Andaman’s, Borneo and Philippines. They have two to three elongated feathers on the head which resembles a crown that provides a majestic look. The elongated feathers grow up to 4 to 5 inches in length. These jewels of prey are scientifically known as Nisaetus cirrhatu. Categorized under the least concern category by IUCN measures up to 28 inches in length with a wingspan of 55 inches. Weighing between 1.2 to 1.9 kg with an equally flexible wingspan, they rule skies of the Asian canopy and are a classified subfamily of booted eagles.

Crested Hawk Eagle, also known as Changeable Hawk-eagle, prefers isolation other than at the mating phase and is found perched up on the high trees keeping a watch on its prey at all-time. Locking eyes on the prey, it descends with great velocity, hooks the targets and ascends back to the treetop for a feast. On the flight, they spread their wings wide and perpendicular to the body which distinguishes them from the Mountain Hawk Eagle. Under pigmentation, juveniles appear in white along the head and under-part. Adults exhibit solid brown white pointed black crest, heavy-brown-streaking from neck to belly and rufous-brown belly. The lifespan of hawk eagles is not been precisely identified to date.  

Species Complex

Species complex term is been provided owing to the variation in pigmentation found among this group of species. Several types of research carried out haven’t been successful in revealing the differences among the crested and related species. Dichotomy and DNA analysis ( mt-DNA cytochrome b & control region sequence) between the related species have also not been able to provide clarity in answering the variations among the crested and crestless group. Flores Hawk-Eagle and Crested Hawk eagles based on these researches have been classified as sister species. Now, Flores Hawk eagles are treated as an individual species. It is owing to the variation in color they are termed changeable hawks. Undertaking the phylogeny approach has also been unsuccessful in answering the taxonomy of wide-ranging changeable hawks.

These birds of prey are normally silent during isolation but readily making calls during the mating phase. The black barring’s present throughout the body acts as a camouflage. The sharp Kri-Kri and Yip-Yip scream calls could be heard up to a distance of 2 miles. They have powerful feathered legs with razor-sharp claws designed purely for hunting. They feed on birds, animals, and reptiles. The beaks are razor sharp and designed to tare flesh at ease. Once the prey is hunted, these eagles spread their wings masking the prey under their wings as an imprint and feed on it whole without sharing in isolation.


Changeable Hawk Eagles in some nations are used for falconry, in other words hunting. The changeable hawks are been bred in captivity by breeders to use them for hunting purposes. The newly bred chicks are handfed and trained according to human commands in order to domesticate them for personal pass time. It takes up to 60 days for a trainer to domesticate these birds. Once trained they are used for hunting hares and smaller birds. Falconry is illegal in India but in other Asian countries, it is considered a sport.

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