Out of all the different types of birds of prey, eagles are by far the most majestic. These large birds belong to the Accipitridae family and there are 60 species of eagle.
Typically, these birds are large, powerful and they have heavy heads with large sharp beaks and powerful claws with long talons. Their wings are longer and designed for high-speed flying.
Eagles are effective hunters because of their incredible eyesight. These birds usually see 3 – 3.6 times better than humans. Their sharp sight helps them identify prey from high altitudes or long distances and they are remarkably successful with their hunting expeditions.
Eagles are carnivore birds of prey. They will hunt for food or forage for carrion meat. Eagles can eat quite a variety of meat types but some species may prefer certain foods over other types of meat sources. Here is a quick look at the most common food these large birds love to eat.
Most eagle species enjoy hunting for fish but for some species, fish is the main food source. The Chesapeake eagles’ diet consists of 90% fish. But most eagle species do enjoy eating a variety of animal types.
Eagles will catch and eat just about any type of fish they can find but they are especially fond of fish species like shad and catfish because these are easy prey in shallow waters.
When eagles eat large fish, they will use their sharp claws to carry the fish to a suitable feeding spot. They will then use their sharp beaks to tear shreds of meat from the fish for easy swallowing.
Small fish can be swallowed whole. Eagles swallow a fish head first because fish are oriented to go down smoother when they are consumed head first.
Eagles also hunt and eat a huge variety of reptiles. They enjoy eating lizards, snakes, turtles, tortoises, and small crocodiles.
Snakes are not a primary food for eagles. Many species such as bald eagles enjoy eating snakes occasionally. When they are consuming toxic snakes, they usually try to rip the snake apart as quickly as possible to avoid bites. Their thick feathers also help protect them from bites because it makes it harder for snakes to make a direct hit when the eagle’s wings are spread.
Eagles are quite fond of hunting and eating other birds, including other eagle species. Their keen eyesight allows them to spot smaller birds from great distances and their longer wingspan and aerodynamic bodies make it possible for them to fly much faster so they can dive down and catch slower birds.
Eagles will eat just about any type of bird including pigeons, waterfowl, seabirds, and many more.
Eagles can also hunt land animals. They usually swoop down to capture their prey using their long talons and will then quickly clip the animal’s spinal cord with their bills.
Eagles usually focus on prey that is about 30% or less than their body weight or they can find it hard to fly off with their food. An average eagle can usually catch and fly off with prey of 3 – 4 pounds depending on their species.
Eagles will hunt and eat just about any type of small mammal they can find including newborn lambs, newborn pigs, bunnies, rats, squirrels, mongoose, gerbils, hamsters, kittens, puppies, hedgehogs, and many others.
In harsh conditions, eagles will eat large insects. This is not a favorite food source but insects are packed in protein which makes them a suitable substitute if the eagle cannot find suitable prey. Eagles like the Golden eagle will eat larger insect types that are usually slow such as beetles.
Eagles will occasionally scavenge for food. They will eat from any carcass they happen to find including the carcass of larger mammals. In animal parks, eagles are mostly fed on carrion meat or prepared lean meats to help keep them fed and nourished.
Eagles also need to drink water to survive. They do get lots of moisture from the food they eat but they still need access to freshwater every day to stay hydrated.
Eagles won’t eat plant matter or human foods. They only eat meat products. The biggest diet variations they have are that they occasionally eat large insects and they might consume carrion meat.
The best way to feed eagles is by allowing them to do their hunting. They enjoy the thrill of the chase but they can also be fed on carrion meat if live bait is not available. If you want to supplement an eagle, you can leave out some carrion meat in a feeding area.
In the wild, eagles will hunt for any type of prey they find in their habitat. They are frequently scouring the skies and land in search of birds or they might sit patiently near rivers until they spot fish close to the water’s surface.
In captivity, eagles are usually fed on strips of lean meat. In some cases, conservatories might release live prey into their enclosures so they can learn to hunt before they are released back into the wild.
Baby eagles are called eaglets. When eaglets are still small, they are fed by their parents by regurgitating food to these chicks. When the chicks grow larger, the parents will bring food back to the nest and will tear these foods into smaller pieces before offering it to the eaglets.
On average, eagles eat about half to one pound of food per day. If food is scarce, eagles will gorge and feed up to 2 pounds of food in a single sitting. This does however depend on the species of eagle since some are bigger and might not consume quite as much.
Eagles do not need to feed every single day. If food is scarce, they will gorge and eat much more but if they can make a regular kill, they usually eat less.
Eagles do eat snakes but this is not a favorite food for them. When they do hunt for snakes, they will try to pin down the head of the snake close to the ground when they land before separating its spine. This helps them avoid toxic snake bites. Some snakes are grappled by the neck, lifted high into the air, and dropped on rooftops to kill the snake before the eagle will fly down to collect its prey.
Eagles love to catch and eat a variety of bird species they find. They will snatch birds from the ground, off tree branches, and can even catch birds in mid-air. The eagle’s unique body type and eyesight, allows them to easily outsmart various slower bird species.
Some large eagles like the golden eagle are known to attack humans. In one scenario, an eagle even managed to snatch a small child but quickly dropped the child after noticing that it was too heavy to carry away.
The chances of eagles attacking humans are however slim. They are most likely to do this if they feel threatened.
In zoos and animal parks, eagles are fed by leaving food in their enclosure or they are fed while wearing gloves because they can easily harm humans with their sharp talons or beaks.
Eagles can catch and eat small pets. They will catch and carry off rabbits, kittens, hamsters, fish in ponds, and even puppies or small dogs. This is not a frequent occurrence since eagles do tend to avoid public areas with lots of humans.