The eagle is a general term for any of the 60 species of large birds of prey characterized by heavy beaks and powerful feet with large, hooked claws (talons). The eagles belong to the family Accipitridae and are apex predators, meaning they are at the top of the food chain. While eagles may have an apparent physical similarity with a related species of birds, vultures, the two are quite different. For instance, unlike vultures that are primarily scavengers, eagles feed on live prey. Further, eagles are fully covered with feathers.
All the 60 species of eagles are divided into four groups, each with a number of different genera and species. The four groups include the fish eagles (sea eagle bird) that primarily feed on fish, the booted eagles with feathered lower legs, the Harpy eagles inhabiting tropical forests, and the snake eagles that are adapted to prey on reptiles.
Out of all the 60 different types of eagles, the most common and well known one is the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Bald eagles belong to the group of sea eagles and have two documented subspecies, the northern bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus washingtoniensis) and the southern bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus leucocephalus). Bald eagles are quite similar in appearance to white-tailed eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla). A bald eagle's habitat range is concentrated in Northern America, particularly Alaska and Canada.
There is more to this amazing bird species! Read on to learn more interesting facts about eagles. If you like reading about eagles, check out our other articles on goose and flamingo.
What do they prey on?
Fish, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, prairie dogs, birds, and reptiles
What do they eat?
Average litter size?
How much do they weigh?
10-14 lb (4.5-6.4 kg)
How long are they?
35-38 in (89-96.5 cm)
How tall are they?
What do they look like?
Dark brown and white
What are their main threats?
What is their conservation status?
Where you'll find them
Forests with a nearby water source
Africa, Eurasia, North and South America, and Australia
Eagle Interesting Facts
What type of animal are eagles?
Eagles are carnivorous raptors (birds of prey). These birds are characterized by large talons, powerful beaks, and extraordinary flight capabilities.
What class of animal do eagles belong to?
Eagles belong to class Aves, meaning they are birds.
How many eagles are there in the world?
The answer to this has a wide scope since the number of eagles extant in the world depends on the species. For instance, there is no concrete data on the exact number of bald eagles even though they have an increasing population trend. But data is available for other species such as the golden eagle bird that has around 100,000 to 200,000 living individuals, the Madagascar fish eagle which has been reduced to a mere 240 individuals, and the Steller's sea eagle with 3,600 to 3,800 individuals left.
Where do eagles live?
Bald eagles and most other eagle species, in general, live in forested areas with lakes or water reservoirs. Bald eagles and other sea eagles, in particular, prefer water bodies that have an abundance of fish.
Eagles build nests in areas that are close to a source of water. While bald eagles build nests atop the tallest trees, golden eagles prefer relatively open habitats and nest on trees or on cliffs. An average eagle's nest can be as wide as 4-5 ft (122-152 cm) and up to 2-4 ft (61-122 cm) deep. Each nest is made by interweaving sticks with an interior lining of plant materials such as grass, moss, corn stalks, and may also consist of animal bones, feathers, or wires. Eagles return to the same nesting site every year because they are known to have strong nest-site fidelity.
What is an eagle's habitat?
Eagles have a wide geographical distribution that depends on the particular species. While most of them belong to either the African continent or Eurasia, a significant number of them are also found in Australia, North America, Central America, and South America. Bald eagles, for example, are North American birds with a range that includes most of the United States, Mexico, Canada, and Alaska. But regardless of the geographical location, bald eagles are mostly seen soaring high above trees and water bodies in summer. Winters are spent hunting around coastlines, rivers, and unfrozen reservoirs. North American eagles usually migrate to the south during early winter or late autumn.
Who do eagles live with?
Eagles are known to mate for life. All of them, including bald eagles, display pair-bonding behavior and engage in elaborate courtship. After an eagle pair engages in successful mating, they will usually stick together for several years. But regardless of the species, an eagle is extremely territorial and has a strong tendency to defend its breeding and nesting territories. However, if one of the mates of an eagle pair dies or fails to return to the nest for the mating season, the other individual will find a new mate and use the same nest for breeding.
How long do eagles live?
Being birds of prey, an eagle has a relatively longer lifespan compared to its other avian relatives. In the wild, eagles have an average lifespan of around 20 to 30 years.
How do they reproduce?
Eagles mate for life and engage in elaborate shows of courtship that include cartwheeling, aerial stick exchanges, and swooping. Eagles become sexually mature at about four to give years of age and this is usually evident from their plumage (feathers). For example, the feathers of bald eagles on their head and tail turn completely white when they attain sexual maturity.
The mating season of eagles varies with the latitude with copulation taking place on the branches of trees or in the nest. A female eagle lays eggs after about five to 10 days of copulation with an average clutch size of one to three eggs. The incubation period of the eggs slightly varies with the species. For bald eagles, the incubation period lasts for about 35 days, and for golden eagles, it may last for 40 to 45 days. Both male and female eaglse participate in incubating the eggs in their nests. Eagle chicks exhibit 'branching behavior' at about 10 to 14 weeks of age when they jump to adjacent branches near the nest.
What is their conservation status?
Depending on the current population trend and main threats, The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species has accorded different conservation statuses to the various types of eagles. The most well-known of them, the bald eagle, is of Least Concern with an increasing population trend.
Eagle Fun Facts
What do eagles look like?
Eagles are strong and powerful birds of prey with a heavy head and hardy beak. Their hooked beaks are large and ideal for tearing the flesh off prey. Their legs are strong and muscular and the curved talons help them to perch as well as hold prey. Their body is covered with feathers.
The eyeball of an eagle is as large as a human's, and their large eyes occupy a significant portion of its skull. The color of their eyes may be either yellow or brown. The length and weight of eagles vary with the gender and the latitude, with a female weighing more than a male in a particular area. The overall size of an eagle also determines the length of the wingspan. In general, both the size and wingspan of eagles are greater for birds inhabiting the northern stretch of their respective geographical range.
How cute are they?
An eagle does not really appear cute. Its imposing build looks visually splendid, and it has a royal and dignified aura about it.
How do they communicate?
Besides the dramatic display of courtship during mating, eagles communicate with each other through a variety of vocal signals and physical gestures. An eagle bird call may include whistles, chatters, high-pitched chirps, long shrieking cries, and wails. Communication through physical gestures may include crouching, flapping of the wings, head motions, and intricate flying patterns. The eyesight of an eagle is also quite well developed with the ability to distinguish between colors and visibility in ultraviolet range of light.
How big are eagles?
The size of an eagle depends on its gender and the geography of its habitat. A female eagle is generally larger than its male counterpart. Birds in the southern range of their habitat are smaller than those inhabiting the northern parts. The average body length of an eagle is 35-38 in (89-96.5 cm). The average wingspan has a range of 6-7.5 ft (183-229 cm). If we compare the size of an eagle with that of a haws, an adult eagle is almost twice as large.
How fast can eagles fly?
The powerful wingbeats of an eagle allow it to fly at speeds of 30 mph (43 kph). When stooping (diving) after prey, an eagle can reach even greater flight speeds, with the bald eagle attaining a maximum diving speed of 100 mph (161 kph).
How much do eagles weigh?
Just like the overall body size and span of the wings, the bodyweight of an eagle varies with the gender and the geographical location to which the eagle belongs. A female eagle weighs more than a male. Eagles of the northern part of a geographical range also weigh more than their southern relatives. However, an average adult eagle has a bodyweight of around 10-14 lb (4.5-6.4 kg).
What are their male and female names of the species?
Both male and female members are called 'eagles'.
What would you call a baby eagle?
A baby eagle is often called an 'eaglet' or a 'fledgling'.
What do they eat?
The diet and food of an eagle depend on the type of eagle and where it lives. The sea eagle or fish eagle (including the bald eagle) lives near water bodies and its food mainly comprises fish. Besides fish, an eagle will also eat other animals such as rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, prairie dogs, birds, and reptiles.
Are they dangerous?
An eagle will not usually attack a human, let alone kill. However, bald eagles are known to turn aggressive towards humans if they are harassed, especially during the mating season or if their nest is disturbed. An eagle may harm humans with its beak or powerful talons, but it is not usually lethal.
Would they make a good pet?
Eagles (including the bald eagle) are protected under several federal law and it is illegal to possess them as pets. Besides, the territorial nature of these animals turns them hostile and are unsuitable as domestic pets.
Did you know...
An eagle's eyesight is quite well developed with both binocular and monocular vision.
The beak and talons of an eagle are made up of keratin protein, the same material with which our nails and hair are made of.
The African fish eagle is the national bird of Zambia and Namibia.
The bald eagle became the national bird of the United States in 1782 and appears on the country's Great Seal with its outspread wings.
The bald eagle is called this not because it is bald but due to the fact that its white-feathered head on a dark-colored body makes it appear bald from a distance.
The Phillippine eagle (monkey-eating eagle) has been national bird of the Philippines since 1995.
The massive size of eagles makes them invincible and practically unafraid of other animals. However, their biggest threats are humans as well as some small animals that eat the eagle's eggs or nestlings.
Eagles can fly carrying small prey animals weighing up to a few pounds but cannot carry humans.
How strong is an eagle's grip?
An eagle's grip is up to 10 times stronger than humans.
How good is an eagle's eyesight?
Eagles have 20/4 and 20/5 vision which is around eight times stronger than humans. Their eyes are capable of seeing things from about 20 ft (6 m) away, while for humans, that range is only 5 ft (1.5 m).
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds including martial eagle, or Southern cassowary.
At Kidadl we pride ourselves on offering families original ideas to make the most of time spent together at home or out and about, wherever you are in the world. We strive to recommend the very best things that are suggested by our community and are things we would do ourselves - our aim is to be the trusted friend to parents.
We try our very best, but cannot guarantee perfection. We will always aim to give you accurate information at the date of publication - however, information does change, so it’s important you do your own research, double-check and make the decision that is right for your family.
Kidadl provides inspiration to entertain and educate your children. We recognise that not all activities and ideas are appropriate and suitable for all children and families or in all circumstances. Our recommended activities are based on age but these are a guide. We recommend that these ideas are used as inspiration, that ideas are undertaken with appropriate adult supervision, and that each adult uses their own discretion and knowledge of their children to consider the safety and suitability.
Kidadl cannot accept liability for the execution of these ideas, and parental supervision is advised at all times, as safety is paramount. Anyone using the information provided by Kidadl does so at their own risk and we can not accept liability if things go wrong.
Sponsorship & Advertising Policy
Kidadl is independent and to make our service free to you the reader we are supported by advertising.
We hope you love our recommendations for products and services! What we suggest is selected independently by the Kidadl team. If you purchase using the buy now button we may earn a small commission. This does not influence our choices. Please note: prices are correct and items are available at the time the article was published.
Kidadl has a number of affiliate partners that we work with including Amazon. Please note that Kidadl is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.
We also link to other websites, but are not responsible for their content.