Changeable Hawk-Eagle

Nisaetus cirrhatus
Population status:
Least Concern
Body length:
51–82 cm (20-32 in)
100–160 cm (39-63 in)
1300–1900 g (45-67 oz)
Crested Hawk-eagle

Munir Virani

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Did You Know?

  • The Changeable Hawk-Eagle is also known as the Crested Hawk-Eagle.
  • This eagle is the most widespread of the Asiatic hawk-eagle species
  • There are two forms of the Changeable Hawk-Eagle - one that has a crest on its head (as seen in the photo above) and one that lacks these crest feathers.
  • There are five commonly recognized subspecies of Changeable Hawk-Eagle


Other Eagles

How The Peregrine Fund is Helping

Though The Peregrine Fund doesn't work directly with Changeable Hawk-Eagles, our efforts in scientific research, habitat conservation, education, and community development help conserve birds of prey around the world. We also supply literature to researchers from our avian research library, which helps scientists around the world gather and share important information on raptor conservation.

Where They Live

The Changeable Hawk-Eagle is found throughout a large part of Asia including in the countries of Bangladesh, Brunei Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Viet Nam, among others.

The Changeable Hawk-Eagle lives, hunts, flies over, perches, roosts and nests in a long list of different habitats including dry deciduous and semi-evergreen forests, second-growth logged forest with clearings, and cultivated areas from sea level to around 1,500 meters above sea level. Occasionally, it does spend time in habitats at elevations of around 2,200 m.

What They Do

The Changeable Hawk-Eagle is a diurnal raptor species, meaning it is active during the day.  It is not migratory, meaning it remains in the same general area all year round. It spends a lot of time perching on exposed branches in the canopy of trees in clearings and at forest edges. When not perching, it frequently soars high in the sky.  

This gorgeous bird has heavy, dark streaks on its whitish underparts and dark upperparts. Adults have yellow to yellow-orange eyes.  Juvenile Changeable Hawk-Eagles, on the other hand, have paler greenish-yellow irises.

Why They Need our Help

Even though the Changeable Hawk-eagle is the most widespread and common Asiatic hawk-eagle species, it is very likely under considerable threat from habitat loss. This species is categorized as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International. The biggest threats this species face are likely habitat destruction and fragmentation, as well as human persecution

What They Eat

Like most eagle species, the Changeable Hawk-Eagle is a skilled hunter and feeds on a long list of different animals. When on the hunt, it usually waitings quietly, perched out of sight of unsuspecting prey. It might perch high up in a forest tree, or low along a fence-post, or at some height in between. Either way, when this eagle spots an animal that looks good to eat, it will make a quick, short dive to snatch up its dinner with strong feet and sharp talons.

But what types of animals does this eagle feed on? The answer is pretty much anything small enough for it to catch. It will hunt medium-sized birds, such as chickens and waterhens, and mammals, including squirrels, treeshrews, rats, and hares. It has even been documented taking monkeys once in a while. It will also feed on reptiles - both snakes and lizards. 

This eagle has been known to scavenge dead animals from time to time. 

Nest, Eggs, and Young

Both the male and female Changeable Hawk-Eagles work together to build their nest. They construct a large stick nest high up in the main fork of a tall tree. Sometimes they will choose to nest in a forested areas, though they also may nest in an isolated tree in more open areas. Their nests can be quite large, measuring between 95–105 cm across, and 35–120 cm deep. To put the final touches on their nest, they will line it with green leaves. A pair of these hawk-eagles will remain on their nesting territory all year round, though their nesting season only lasts for about 4-5 months of each year. Depending on where they live, some Changeable Hawk-Eagles nest between November to May, while in other areas throughout their range, pairs may nest between April and August. 

During breeding season, the female will lay a clutch of just one egg. Her egg will be white, with reddish-brown spots. Biologists have observed that the incubation duties fall almost solely on the female. If the male does help out, it is only rarely. Of course, the male has another important job to do. He is responsible for feeding the female while she cares for the egg, which will hatch around 50 days after it has been laid.  After the eaglet hatches, it will be ready to fledge, or fly for the first time, somewhere between 62-68 days or more.  About a week or so before the young bird will fly, it spends a lot of time standing up in the nest, flapping its wings vigorously in preparation for its first flight. 

Biologists don't know how long the young bird stays with its parents before it becomes a skilled enough hunter to venture out on its own.

Changeable Hawk-Eagle and The World Center for Birds of Prey

The World Center for Birds of Prey offers fun ways to learn about raptors. Interactive activities, tours, interesting videos and a children's room with activities from coloring sheets and quizzes to costumes and a touch table are available for the curious mind. We also have several different birds of prey on display year-round, including several eagle species! A visit to the World Center for Birds of Prey will reward you with a close-up look at several different eagle species from around the world including the beautiful Bateleur, the powerful Harpy Eagle and the majestic Bald Eagle. On display in an outdoor aviary, Stoffel, the Bateleur, delights visitors with his colorful plumage and entertaining behavior. Our experts and volunteers at the visitor center will help you learn more about the interesting traits, feeding habits, and reproductive behavior of this unusual eagle. Housed in our outdoor facilities, Sky the Bald Eagle greets visitors year-round from her chamber. When you walk the interpretive trail that looks out over the Boise valley in the winter, you may be able to spot a Bald Eagle soaring over the grasslands or perched in a tree or on a distant power pole. Grayson, the Harpy Eagle, will delight you with his gentle demeanor. We have a mounted eagle on display, real Harpy Eagle feathers you can touch, and a short video that chronicles the exciting journey of our biologists as they work to hatch young eagles, raise them, and ultimately release them into the dense forests of Panama. Fancy, our resident Ornate Hawk-eagle is an amazingly colorful bird of prey. Our knowledgeable staff and volunteers are on hand to answer any questions you may have about Changeable Hawk-eagle or other raptors


BirdLife International. 2020. Nisaetus cirrhatusThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T22732090A181767197. Downloaded on 18 August 2021.

Clark, W.S., P. F. D. Boesman, and J. S. Marks (2020). Changeable Hawk-Eagle (Nisaetus cirrhatus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: Crested Hawk-eagle Nisaetus cirrhatus. Downloaded from on 17 Aug. 2021

Gunawan¹, N., Fauziah, R., Zulham¹, D., Pramono¹, H. and Yuniar¹, A., 2016. New homes on misty mountains: Javan Hawk-eagle Nisaetus bartelsi and Changeable Hawk-eagle Nisaetus cirrhatus nesting in Gunung Halimun Salak National Park, West Java, Indonesia. Journal homepage: www. wesca. net11(1).

Nazar, S. and Noske, R.A., 2017. Nest cycle and nestling development of a pair of Changeable Hawk-Eagles Nisaetus cirrhatus in Gunung Halimun-Salak National Park, West Java. Kukila20, pp.39-47.