In contrast to previous incursions of highly pathogenic H5 viruses, H5N8 clade 126.96.36.199b caused numerous lethal infections in white-tailed sea eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla) in Germany during the winter 2016/2017. Until April 2017, 17 HPAIV H5N8-positive white-tailed sea eagles had been detected (three alive and 14 dead). Mainly young eagles died (before reaching the adult plumage at 5 years), often with severe neurological symptoms, where histopathology revealed mild to moderate, oligo- to multifocal necrotizing polioencephalitis. Lethal lead (Pb) concentrations, proven as main mortality factor of the sea eagles could be ruled out since values measured in liver or kidney tissue were all within background levels (< 1 ppm). Since the fall of 2016, the epizootic of HPAIV H5 clade 188.8.131.52b reportedly induced, for the first time, fatal disease in European white-tailed see eagles. The virus strain may become a new threat to a highly protected species across its distribution range in Eurasia. Positive cloacal swaps have proven that the eagles can spread the virus with their faeces.