Ornithological Note 39

Pygmy Eagle in Buru, Moluccas Islands

Phillip Edwards June 30, 2015
Country: Maluku Islands
Section(s): range extension, Status and Conservation

The known range for the Pygmy Eagle (Hieraaetus weiskei) is currently confined to the island of New Guinea (del Hoyo et al. 2014), but small eagles seen on Halmahera in 1989 and 1994, and on Seram in 1996, had been identified as Little Eagle (Hieraaetus morphnoides) (King 1990, Coates & Bishop 1997), which at that time incorporated the subspecies weiskei prior to its promotion to full species status (by Gjershaug et al. 2009). Jepson (1993) recorded an unidentified small eagle from Buru in 1989 and suggested it to be a juvenile Rufous-bellied Eagle (Lophotriorchis kienerii), while Reeve et al. (2014) recorded the presence of six unidentified eagles from Fogi (four), and inland from Waikeka (two), on Buru in 1995, which were recorded as being very similar in appearance to adult light-phase Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus), a species unknown from Wallacea. Reeve et al. (2014) consider that all these records of small eagles from Buru were in fact Pygmy Eagle.

In the late afternoon of 26th September 2014, I observed two birds I believe to have been this species gliding slowly over the forest at Wairabu, Buru, at an altitude below 50m. The birds were similar in size and shape to the Eurasian Buzzard (Buteo buteo) with straight wings and a medium-length, square-ended, closely-barred tail. The upperparts were mid-brown, while the underparts were whitish with dark streaking on the breast. The centre of the underwings were conspicuously pale (i.e. white underwing coverts becoming darker on inner wing), contrasting with the brown-barred remiges. Subsequently, a Pygmy Eagle was recorded and photographed along the Danau road, at an altitude of 1,300 m, on 8th December 2014 (Robson 2014).

All these observations suggest that the species could be regular in Buru Island and, perhaps, other islands of the Moluccas archipelago.


Coates, B.J. & Bishop, K.D. (1997). A Guide to the Birds of Wallacea: Sulawesi, The Moluccas and Lesser Sunda Islands, Indonesia. Dove Publications, Alderley, Queensland.

del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Marks, J.S. (2014). Pygmy Eagle (Hieraaetus weiskei). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.) (2014). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Gjershaug, J.O., Lerner, H.R.L. & Diserud, O.H. (2009). Taxonomy and distribution of the Pygmy Eagle Aquila (Hieraaetus) weiskei (Accipitriformes: Accipitridae). Zootaxa 2326: 24–38.

Jepson, P. (1993) Recent ornithological observations from Buru. Kukila 6: 85–109.

King, B. (1990). Little Eagle Hieraaetus morphnoides on Halmahera. Kukila 5(1): 77.

Reeve, A.H., Haryoko, T., Poulsen, M.K., Fabre, P.-H. & Jønsson, K.A. (2014). New ornithological records from Buru and Seram, south Maluku, Indonesia, 1995–2012. Forktail 30: 10–22.

Robson, C. 2014. From the field. Birding Asia 22: 121–128.

Recommended Citation

Edwards, P. (2015). Pygmy Eagle in Buru, Moluccas Islands. HBW Alive Ornithological Note 39. In: Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow-on.100039