These eagle facts provide a unique insight into the lives of these remarkable birds. Widely known as skilled predators and mighty flyers, eagles grace the skies with their presence and draw attention to their unique role in their ecosystems.
As apex predators, eagles rely on their excellent eyesight to hunt for their next meal. Their hunting efficiency is unparalleled, thanks to their ability to spot prey over 2 miles away. Also, eagles are renowned for constructing incredible two-ton nests. Are you excited to dig deeper? Read on for more eagle facts.
Related: If you prefer the silent feathered predators, learn more about their species with our list of different types of owls.
Fun Eagle Facts
1. Eagles are everywhere except Antarctica
Eagles are one of the world's largest birds. They live on every continent except Antarctica. These formidable raptors can be categorized broadly into four main groups: fish or sea eagles, booted eagles, snake eagles, and harpy eagles. The most notable species are the Bald, Golden, and Harpy Eagles.
Bald Eagles, which symbolize power and freedom, are the national bird of the United States. Characterized by their white heads and tail feathers, these birds make their home in North America. Moreover, Bald Eagles live near bodies of water where they hunt their primary food source- fish.
In contrast, the Golden Eagle is widespread across the northern hemisphere. They inhabit the mountains and grasslands of Europe, Asia, North Africa, and North America.
Meanwhile, the Harpy Eagle is one of the world's largest and most powerful eagles. They rule over the tropical rainforests of Central and South America with their massive talons and tremendous strength. For instance, a Harpy Eagle's legs can grow as thick as a human wrist, giving them a firm grip.
Read more: Types of Eagles.
2. Eagles are masters of the air
Eagles can fly up to 100 miles per hour when diving for prey2. They tuck their wings close to their bodies to streamline their form. This feature reduces drag, making them knife through the air with utmost precision. As they close in on their target, they stretch out their talons and snatch the prey without losing momentum.
They are not only impressive hunters, but they also can soar for hours on end. They take advantage of thermal updrafts, or natural air currents created by the sun warming the Earth's surface. Like a surfer catching a wave, eagles spread their long, broad wings and ride the rising warm air; they don't need to flap their wings continuously. This energy-saving approach enables them to travel great distances while searching for food or migrating.
Aside from being masters of the air, the following eagle facts showcase why they are worthy of being called birds of prey.
3. Eagles can see 4 to 8 times better than humans
Eagles can see 4 to 8 times sharper than humans, allowing them to spot tiny prey, like rabbits or fish, from miles away. Thanks to the high number of photoreceptor cells in the retina, eagles enjoy increased visual acuity and enhanced color perception.
Binocular vision, where both eyes focus on the same object, gives an eagle's eyesight excellent depth perception, which is critical for accurately locating their prey. Moreover, the eagle eye can swiftly adjust focus from near to far objects.
Notably, these birds of prey can see ultraviolet light. Using this ability, they can detect urine trails from small mammals. For instance, a golden eagle soaring high above the ground can effortlessly spot a rabbit scurrying through the grass.
4. Eagles are skilled hunters
Eagles are formidable aerial predators. Their diet primarily consists of small mammals, fish, and other birds, with their choice of prey influenced by their habitat and availability.
For example, Bald Eagles snatch fish from the water's surface. In contrast, many eagles eat rabbits, ground squirrels, fish, reptiles, and other birds like grouse. Fish Eagles, as their name suggests, feed primarily on fish. The Philippine Eagle eats large and small animals like monkeys, snakes, lizards, and flying squirrels.
One of the advantages eagles have over their prey is their sharp, powerful talons. These claws help them grasp prey firmly, often instantly killing smaller animals due to their grips' immense force. Also, eagles' talons allow them to carry relatively large prey through the air.
A remarkable example is the Harpy Eagle, one of the largest eagles. Thanks to their incredible strength and specialized talons, they often carry off sloths and monkeys. However, though they are excellent hunters, most eagles are also known to steal food, especially when the food source is scarce.
5. Eagles mate for life
Here's an eagle fact that will increase your respect for these birds: eagles are known to mate for life. These eagles perform impressive aerial courtship rituals, including synchronized flights, daring swoops, and cartwheels. Moreover, the male and female lock their talons with each other.
In the breeding season, female eagles lay between 1 and 3 eggs, with a few days of interval between each egg. They lay eggs in carefully constructed nests called eyries, often reused and expanded yearly. These nests provide a safe, cozy space for the growing eaglets. Both parents share the responsibility of incubation, taking turns keeping the eggs warm over 35 days.
As the eaglets hatch and develop, their devoted parents watch over them. They work together tirelessly to provide nourishment and protection throughout the early stages of life.
6. Eagles are master nest builders
Regarding nest-building, these birds of prey favor elevated locations that offer a commanding view of their surroundings. Many species, including the Bald Eagle and Steller's Sea Eagle, look for tall trees that provide safety from ground-based predators and an ideal vantage point for spotting prey. On the other hand, in treeless areas, Golden Eagles construct their nests on cliffs, which offer similar advantages.
Eagles build their nests using sticks, grass, downy feathers, and other durable materials. Impressively, they often reuse these nests over multiple breeding seasons. Male and female eagles also diligently defend the nest territory3.
7. Bald eagles make the biggest bird nests
Bald Eagles excel in avian architecture. These magnificent birds meticulously construct their homes using large sticks and branches while lining the interior with softer materials like grass and moss for comfort and security.
Over time, the Bald Eagle's nest can reach dimensions 4 to 6 feet in width and depth. Some aeries weigh over 2 tons, showcasing the Bald Eagles' extraordinary nest-building abilities.
Strategically perched at the top of tall trees, such as pines or cottonwoods, the aeries provide an unparalleled vantage point and protection from potential threats. The height of the nests can range from 60 to 200 feet above the ground.
Bald eagles often return to the same nest year after year, adding new materials and repairing any damage, contributing to the nests' immense size. Sometimes, they even build secondary nests close to their primary ones as a backup or alternative option.
Related: Do you know hummingbirds have the tiniest nests? Discover more about the jeweled bird with our hummingbird facts.
8. Baby eagles are called eaglets
An eaglet's life starts with its hatching, emerging from the egg as a delicate and defenseless being. Covered in soft, white down, these baby eagles rely entirely on their parents for nourishment and protection. In fact, male and female eagle partners are some of the best parents in the animal kingdom.
They alternately hunt, ensuring one parent stays in the nest to safeguard the eaglets against potential hazards. The eaglets eat the same food as their parents, who rip apart their catch and feed it to their young during the first weeks of life.
Around 10 to 12 weeks old, these young eagles reach a crucial milestone: fledging. This essential learning phase involves eaglets practicing wing flapping, building strength, and hopping around the nest. This behavior is often called "branching." In time, they gain enough experience to soar into the sky for the first time, marking the beginning of their lives as juveniles.
Newfound flight abilities enable the eaglets to gain independence slowly, sharpening their hunting prowess and navigation techniques under their parents' vigilant gaze. For example, bald eagles continue to provide food for their young for about a month after fledging, allowing them to practice hunting skills without pressure.
9. Eagles engage in talon-locking
Talon-locking occurs when two eagles fly toward each other, extend their legs, and lock their strong talons together. Then, they spiral downwards in free fall, creating a breathtaking spectacle at great heights.
While some might mistake talon-locking for an aggressive act, experts believe it's more likely a form of play or a test of strength and agility between potential mates or family members. This activity is also hazardous since these birds plummet hundreds of feet before releasing their grip, risking injury or death if they don't let go on time.
Before talon-locking, eagles perform a complex set of aerial maneuvers. They engage in steep dives, looping, and dramatic swoops. Various eagles, like Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles, perform talon-locking.
10. Eagles can live up to 30 years
In their natural habitats, eagles can live up to 30 years. For instance, Bald Eagles usually live for 20-30 years, while Golden Eagles may live longer. Some eagles in captivity can even surpass 40 years.
As eagles age, they face health challenges similar to other animals, such as joint problems, vision loss, and weakened immune systems. Despite these hurdles, these remarkable birds continue to thrive. Since they are on the top of the food chain, eagles have few natural enemies, contributing to their long lives.
11. Harpy Eagles’ talons are as big as a grizzly bear’s claws
Among the world's largest and most powerful eagle species, the harpy stands out with its striking feathered crest that graces its head, which it raises or lowers to reflect its mood. This awe-inspiring predator reaches impressive sizes. Females can weigh up to 20 pounds and have wingspans longer than 7 feet, allowing them to pursue and capture monkeys, sloths, and even small deer.
Additionally, this eagle has enormous, powerful talons similar in size to a grizzly bear's claws. This formidable adaptation allows the eagle to seize prey from tree branches or snatch it mid-flight with incredible precision and strength. Moreover, it prefers to ambush its victims. Living in tropical rainforests, this bird of prey helps sustain the delicate balance of its ecosystem.
The next eagle fact is one of the best news in the animal kingdom.
12. Bald Eagles have the best comeback
As America's national symbol, bald eagles once hovered on the edge of extinction thanks to many factors. For example, human encroachment and industrialization reduced their nesting sites and prey populations.
Moreover, widespread hunting took its toll; hunters poached bald eagles for their feathers. Farmers also attacked bald eagles, considering them threats to livestock. Then, the mid-20th century introduction of the pesticide DDT caused reproductive failures for bald eagles, plus eggshell thinning.
In response, conservation efforts saved the bald eagles from becoming extinct. After the US ban on DDT in 1972, the populations of these vulnerable species began to recover across the country. Besides, concerted efforts from government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and local communities boosted the turnaround.
Captive breeding programs, habitat restoration, and public education campaigns helped restore the bald eagle population in the country.
The government established legal safeguards to protect the Bald Eagle from hunting and loss of habitat. These measures included the Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973. In 2007, the bald eagle was no longer endangered1.
Fun fact: Did you know that female bald eagles typically weigh as much as 25% more than males?
13. Eagles receive support from conservation efforts
Groups like the American Eagle Foundation work tirelessly to protect eagle habitats and reduce human-wildlife conflicts. They use various strategies, from captive breeding programs and reintroduction efforts to habitat restoration.
Conservation organizations establish eagle watch programs that monitor an eagle population and promote appreciation for these birds, particularly the threatened and endangered species.
One key aspect is public education and awareness campaigns. These initiatives inform people about eagles' crucial role in ecosystems and teach responsible behavior in and around their habitats. For instance, a recent campaign by a local conservation group highlighted the story of an injured eagle nursed back to health and released into the wild.
Moreover, conservation organizations work with governments and industries to create bird-safe structures, like power lines and wind turbines. These efforts minimize electrocution and collision risks.
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Related: To further explore the animal kingdom, check out some of the other animals that start with E.
BirdLife International. 2016. Haliaeetus leucocephalus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22695144A93492523. Accessed on 26 June 2023.
Grambo, R. L. (1999). Eagles. Voyageur Press (MN).
Grambo, R. L. (1999). Eagles. Voyageur Press (MN).