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What do Eagles Eat

You must have seen eagles feasting on their prey, either on the ground or high up on tree tops. This article provides information on what these birds eat.
BirdEden Staff
Eagles are large birds which belong to the family Accipitridae, and to several genera that are not closely related to each other. There are about 60 species of eagles which are seen in Eurasia and Africa, and outside these areas, only two species are seen. These two species are named the Bald eagle and the Golden eagle, which are a common sight in the United States, Canada, South America, and Australia. Eagles are preying birds which hunt for their food by keeping an eye on their prey from the sky and then aiming their glide downwards for a catch.

There is not much of a difference among the diets of both the most commonly-found eagle species in the US, the bald and the golden eagle. Given below is the brief description of both these species and also information on their respective diet.

Description
  • Eagles are different from other birds in many ways, for instance, in their physical appearance and habits. They are larger in size, are preying birds, and are more powerful, with heavy heads and hooked beaks.
  • Their powerful hooked beaks are created so that they can tear flesh from their prey. Their strong muscular legs hold the prey while eating.
  • Their eyesight is also one of their best assets, as their extremely large pupils ensure minimal diffraction (scattering) of the incoming light so they can see the prey easily.
  • They have very large spreading wings, which are broad and relatively longer than other birds. They are more direct and have extra strength to provide faster flight to these carnivorous birds.
Diet of Bald Eagles
  • The first of the most common eagle species in the US is the bald eagle. These birds are hunters. They sit right at the top of their food chains.
  • They have excellent vision, both to the front and to the sides, and all the required strength to tear off their food. The large talons on their feet help them to catch their food and hold it still, till their beaks tear it off.
  • These eagles eat fish, waterfowl, turtles, and muskrats. They are capable of carrying about 4 pounds in their talons and hence they don't mind hunting for bigger prey.
  • Fish comprise a major portion of their diet. They like to eat fish such as trout, salmon, herring, carp, bass, mullet, and even eels.
  • They also like eating birds such as ducks, gulls, egrets, geese, herons, coots, alcids, etc.
  • They can also eat dead animals and decaying carcass of dead prey hunted by some other animal on the land. Larger animals like seals or deer can also be their favorite if they are in a group.
Diet of Golden Eagles
  • Golden eagles, which are also one of the most commonly-found species, have the same features as the bald eagles.
  • They too have great vision, sharp talons, and a hooked beak, which gives them the liberty to hunt for their prey. These factors play a very important role in hunting, and thus have to be understood well.
  • These eagles would prefer to eat hares and rabbits as their basic food. Ground squirrels, prairie dogs, and marmots are their second favorite if they can't find rabbits.
  • Other choices of food can be mice, martens, foxes, young deer, and mountain goats. They also feed their young ones with such a big catch.
  • Golden eagles generally feed on other birds too; those that are either tiny or those which can't fly very fast, like the phasianids, ptarmigans, and grouse become their prey.
  • During the winter months, there is a scarcity of food and hence, they hunt down bigger prey which lasts for a longer time, like the caribou and goat-antelopes.
Eagles are not very rare but are lesser in number than their cousins, the kites and hawks. They are beautiful and majestic birds which also need to be preserved.
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