Tree Nesting Bonelli's Eagle - Conservation of Tree Nesting Bonelli's Eagle in Portugal

LIFE06 NAT/P/000194

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Contact details:

Contact person: Carla JANEIRO
Tel: +351 266 746 102
Fax: +351 266 745 782
Email: janeiro.c@gmail.com

Project description:


Bonelli’s Eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus) is a medium-sized eagle - typical wingspan 1.5 - 1.8 m, weight 1 500 – 2 400 g. It is found in several Mediterranean habitats, particularly around areas which juxtapose calm and protected zones in relatively low mountain with areas used for farming and forestry activities. This provides a territory with suitable habitat for nesting and an abundance of prey in the form of medium-sized birds and mammals – both wild and domestic.

However, numbers of the eagle have drastically declined in several European regions, notably France and the northern half of the Iberian Peninsula. In Portugal, the population presents two distinct demographic trends. In the north and littoral-centre a regression hasbeen observed, whereas in the interior-centre - Alentejo and Algarve - the population has been presenting some stability. According to 2006 data, the Portuguese population was one of the most important, estimated at 87-94 pairs compared with 900 pairs for the rest of Europe.

The main threats to this species are the degradation of their habitat – through, for example,construction, fire and intensive forestry - lack of food, juvenile mortality due to pathologies caught from the consumption of domestic animals, hunting, and accidents with electric lines and wind turbines. The lack of knowledge on several aspects of their biology and limited general awareness of the threats to the species remain important obstacles to its conservation.


The main objective of the project was to maintain or increase the population of Bonelli’s eagle in south Portugal, the only large remaining tree-nesting population of the species in Europe. To achieve this overall objective, the project sought to improve the population dynamics of the species by both increasing the productivity of breeding pairs and reducing the mortality of adults and juveniles. It aimed to tackle several of the direct and indirect threats to the bird.

As well as directly tackling some of the most important threats, key areas of work for theproject would be:

  • monitoring the population of Hieraaetus fasciatus, to increase understanding of its needs, characteristics and population trends
  • contributing to relevant habitat management to reduce degradation and preserve environmental conditions favourable to Hieraaetus fasciatus
  • engaging governmental and non-governmental organizations around long-term habitat preservation and species conservation
  • contributing to the implementation of Natura 2000 management plans and relevant complementary legislation
  • increasing awareness of local populations to the conservation of nature and of endangered species in particular
  • .


    The project successfully engaged relevant stakeholders to develop agreements and plans for improved long-term habitat management aimed at conservation of the Bonelli?s eagle in south Portugal. These approaches were based on an improved knowledge and understanding of the species and its needs developed during the project.

    The project conducted detailed studies of wind farms, electricity lines, and both wild and domestic prey of the eagle. Numbers and distribution of the key wild prey, red?legged partridges and wild rabbits, were down compared to 1990s? censuses. Domestic prey availability had fallen dramatically with a 74% decrease in domestic pigeon numbers from 1994 to 2007.

    The team monitored eagle numbers on an ongoing basis. GPS trackers were also attached to ten adults, which provided a large amount of useful data for the assessment of risks and understanding of movements and habitat use. Further threats were identified from walking tours and motorsport activities. A seminar was held on the use of radio-tracking and satellite telemetry for assessing threats.

    Specific interventions aimed to improve the availability of prey: (re)construction and population of seven pigeon lofts with associated maintenance agreements with game estate managers; and scrub clearing and pasture installation to improve conditions for wild rabbit and red?legged partridge. An artificial eagle nest was constructed and another restored.

    Crucially, most of the foreseen breeding territories were protected by management agreements with forest companies, creating a buffer area of 436 000 ha. Furthermore, two agreements were signed for the long-term acquisition of trees, seven for the temporary acquisition of land rights covering 145 ha and three additional informal agreements reached with landowners covering 264 ha.

    The project team provided technical support to 31 forest owners/managers, managers of 36 game areas and companies from the energy sector to help them mitigate risks to Bonelli?s eagle associated with their various activities. Environmental awareness activities and products also successfully targeted local schools, hunters? organisations, local authorities and local populations.

    The project delivered an updated draft Action Plan for the conservation of the tree-nesting Bonelli?s eagle, which is due to be approved shortly. It also produced a good practice manual on Bonelli?s eagle conservation, including demonstrating compatibility with forest management and hunting activities and how to identify the species and its nests.


Environmental issues addressed:


Species - Birds


protected area‚  nature conservation

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 79/409 - Conservation of wild birds (02.04.1979)

Target species

 Hieraaetus fasciatus     

Natura 2000 sites

SPA PTZPE0045 Mourão/Moura/Barrancos
SPA PTZPE0046 Castro Verde
SPA PTZPE0047 Vale do Guadiana
SCI PTCON0037 Monchique
SCI PTCON0057 Caldeirão



Coordinator Centro de Estudos de Avifauna Ibérica
Type of organisation NGO-Foundation
Description CEAI is a non-governmental organisation active in the areas of environmental study and conservation, particularly birds in southern Portugal. CEAI also focuses on raising public awareness of environmental issues.
Partners ASPAFLOBAL – Associação dos Produtores Florestais do Barlavento Algarvio, Portugal Associação para a Protecção e Desenvolvimento das Serras do Barlavento Algarvio (Viver Serra), Portugal Caldeira & Grilo, Portugal Instituto da Conservação da Natureza (ICN), Portugal Associação de Industriais e Exportadores de Cortiça, Delegação Regional do Baixo Alentejo e Algarve (AIEC/drbaa), Portugal Câmara Municipal de Almodôvar, Portugal Direcção Geral dos Recursos Florestais (DGRF), Portugal


Project reference LIFE06 NAT/P/000194
Duration 01-OCT-2006 to 31-MAR -2011
Total budget 2,068,831.00 €
EU contribution 1,551,623.00 €
Project location Alentejo(Portugal) Algarve(Portugal)


Read more:

Leaflet Project's leaflet (PT)
Project web site Project's website (PT/EN)
Publication: After-LIFE Conservation Plan Plano AFTER-LIFE
Publication: Guidelines-Manual "Conservação da Aguia de Bonelli - Manual de boas ...
Publication: Guidelines-Manual "Plano de Acção para a Conservação da População Ar ...
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Publication: Pedagogical tool "A Odisseia da Bonelli" (12 MB!)


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version