The Booted Eagle in Parque Natural de Els Ports (Els Ports Nature Park)
he booted eagle (Aquilapennata) is a summer visitor to forests in Els Ports. The first examples can be seen in nesting areas during the second half of March. At the beginning of April, couples make their nests with Scots pine leaves or more rarely Aleppo pine leaves. Some weeks later, the female lays one or two eggs, and after 32-34 days the chicks hatch. If all is well, in mid June the chicks will make their first flight through the forests in the Park.
This is a migratory trans-Saharan species which flies to southern Palearctic areas during the breeding season. There are estimated to be between 3,600 and 6,900 pairs in Europe, with more than half of these on the Iberian Peninsula (BirdLifeinternational/EBCC, 2000). The species is protected as quoted in Annex 1 of the Birds directive (Directive 79/409/CEE), category B, legislation 3/1988 on 4th March for the protection of animals and catalogued as a sensitive species by Decree 148/192. It can be found in central regions of Catalonia, in the eastern pre-Pyrenees and in the south of Tarragona, where there are estimated to be 40-100 breeding pairs (ICO, 1999-2002).
The booted eagle is one of 11 daytime birds of prey species which nests regularly in Els Ports. By monitoring populations of predators we have a good indication of how this natural area is being preserved. They are to be found at the top of the food chain and if they develop favourably they can be the symptom of good health in the rest of the trophic hierarchy. In 2003, research began to try and discover the number of pairs and how they were distributed in the Nature Park, resulting in 3 breeding pairs. Ten years later, in 2013 the number of pairs has increased considerably to 13. However, the census shows that last year productivity was low, with 0.85 chicks/pair, with a total of 11 chicks flying in the mountains (Baiges, C. 2013).
This species is relatively easy to see in the mountains when it moves to find food (it especially likes open areas near forests in the higher parts of the Park). To try and spot this species or any other bird of prey you can take one of the routes (the Hora de Sant Joan - Les Gronses - Coll de Miralles route) recommended in the ornithological brochure edited by Terres de l’Ebre Tourist Office.
Baiges. C. 2013. Cens de l’àguila calçada Aquila pennata i l’aufrany Neophron percnopterus al Parc natural dels Ports. Any 2013. Parc Natural dels Ports. DAAM. (inèdit).
BirdLifeinternational/EBCC, 2000. European bird population estimates and trends.Cambridge. UK. Birdlife International. (BirdlifeConservations Series n. 10)
Bosch, J. 2004. Àliga calçada Hieraaetus pennatus. In Estrada, J. Et al. (eds.). Atles dels Ocells Nidificants de Catalunya, 1999-2002. Institut Català d'Ornitologia (ICO)/Lynx.