Grey-headed fish eagle studies (Cambodia)

Ecology and conservation of the grey-headed fish eagle at Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia

Grey-headed fish eagle in flight

The poorly-studied grey-headed fish eagle (Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus) is in apparent population decline throughout its Indo-Malayan range, with a global conservation status of ‘Near-threatened’. The species’ specific ecological requirements are unknown. We have discovered a high-density breeding population in a flooded swamp forest at the north-west end of the Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia, probably the most significant breeding population in SE Asia. The stability of this population is threatened by unsustainable activities at the local and international scales, particularly the mass harvesting of water snakes (eagle prey) and the construction of upstream hydro-power dams in China (affecting water & silt levels).

Nesting habitat at Prek Toal,


Working in collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society (Cambodia) and the University of Reading (UK), our research includes studies on the biology and ecology of the fishing eagle, and we are training local wildlife rangers to undertake long-term fish eagle monitoring at key sites to assess trends in abundance and productivity, thus using the fishing eagle as a biodiversity indicator in this threatened habitat.

In 2008 field surveys were conducted at Prek Toal for the fourth consecutive year, under the direction of Sun Visal. WCS Cambodia, and the Royal Government of Cambodia have invited us to submit a fishing eagle monitoring protocol for use at other key sites on the Tonle Sap Lake as part of their on-going biodiversity strategy. Our planned training workshop for wildlife rangers in December 2008 had to be cancelled due to political unrest in the region, and the closure of the main airports.

A local wildlife ranger helps us sample watersnakes

Publications and manuscripts:

Tingay, R.E., Nicoll, M.A.C. and Sun, V. (2006). Status and distribution of the grey-headed fish eagle in the Prek Toal Core Area of Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia. Journal of Raptor Research 40: 277-283.

Tingay, R.E., Nicoll, M.A.C., Whitfield, D.P., Sun, V. and McLeod, D.R.A. (submitted). Nesting ecology of the grey-headed fish eagle at Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia.

Funding support has been provided by Natural Research, National Birds of Prey Trust, Eagle Conservation Alliance, Wildlife Conservation Society, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, University of Reading, International Osprey Foundation and The Peregrine Fund.

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Photos: R. Tingay

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