Nature conservation

Threatened species

White-bellied Sea-Eagle - profile

Indicative distribution

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The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Haliaeetus leucogaster
Conservation status in NSW: Vulnerable
Commonwealth status: Not listed
Gazetted date: 16 Dec 2016
Profile last updated: 19 Sep 2019


The White-bellied Sea-Eagle is a large eagle that has long broad wings and a short, wedge-shaped tail. It measures 75–85 cm in length, and has a wingspan of 180–220 cm.

Adults are predominantly white and grey. The head, breast and belly, and the feathering on the legs, are white. The back and upper surfaces of the wings are grey, and the undersides are greyish-black with a smaller area of white along the leading edge. The tail is grey at the base, and has a white tip. 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.

Both sexes are similar in appearance but females are larger than the males. Juveniles are brown with lighter markings.

White-bellied Sea-eagles may be solitary, or live in pairs or small family groups consisting of a pair of adults and dependent young.


The White-bellied Sea-eagle is distributed around the Australian coastline, including Tasmania, and well inland along rivers and wetlands of the Murray Darling Basin.

In New South Wales it is widespread along the east coast, and along all major inland rivers and waterways.

Habitat and ecology

  • Habitats are characterised by the presence of large areas of open water including larger rivers, swamps, lakes, and the sea.
  • Occurs at sites near the sea or sea-shore, such as around bays and inlets, beaches, reefs, lagoons, estuaries and mangroves; and at, or in the vicinity of freshwater swamps, lakes, reservoirs, billabongs and saltmarsh.
  • Terrestrial habitats include coastal dunes, tidal flats, grassland, heathland, woodland, and forest (including rainforest).
  • Breeding habitat consists of mature tall open forest, open forest, tall woodland, and swamp sclerophyll forest close to foraging habitat. Nest trees are typically large emergent eucalypts and often have emergent dead branches or large dead trees nearby which are used as ‘guard roosts’. Nests are large structures built from sticks and lined with leaves or grass.
  • Feed mainly on fish and freshwater turtles, but also waterbirds, reptiles, mammals and carrion.
  • Hunts its prey from a perch or whilst in flight (by circling slowly, or by sailing along 10–20 m above the shore). Prey is usually carried to a feeding platform or (if small) consumed in flight, but some items are eaten on the ground.
  • May be solitary, or live in pairs or small family groups consisting of a pair of adults and dependent young.
  • Typically lays two eggs between June and September with young birds remaining in the nest for 65-70 days.

Regional distribution and habitat

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Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region