White bellied sea eagle

White bellied sea eagle
Image: JJ Harrison
Community type

Pelagic reef organisms

Habitat type

Rocky reefs, kelp beds and inter-tidal zone

A very distinctive bird, white-bellied sea eagles are one of the largest and most majestic animals in the Derwent estuary. Despite the name ‘sea eagle’, this species also lives along freshwater rivers and inland lakes. They have a wide range occurring through south-east Asia, and the entire coastline of Australia. White-bellied sea eagles are listed as Vulnerable in Tasmania and South Australia and Threatened in Victoria due to the extensive development of coastal areas. They breed in a large nest on rocky headlands or cliffs, or in large trees near the coast, and are sensitive to human disturbance during the breeding season. Large fish are the main prey which is snatched from the water’s surface as the birds swoop down from above. Breeding pairs hold large territories of a few kilometres in diameter, and are resident in these territories year-round, defending them from other white-bellied sea eagles. They usually occur in low densities along the coastline, but in bays and estuaries with a convoluted coastline they occur in higher densities.

Much of the text within the species area of our website was written by Veronica Thorpe, as part of the Derwent River Wildlife Guide (2000).

The DEP has developed a variety of classroom and outdoor activities focused around the key estuary habitats of tidal wetlands, salt marshes and rocky reefs. These include classroom materials, online resources, interpretive walks, games and sensory experiences.