Eagles are large birds of prey belonging to the family Accipitridae. There are over 60 known species of eagle spread over all continents except Antarctica. A majority of the species lives in Europe, Asia or Africa, but you can find nine species in Central and South America, three in Australia, and two in North America.

The nest of an eagle is known as an eyrie and can usually be found on a high cliff or far up in a tall tree. Many species produce two eggs each brooding season but the parents usually only rear one chick since the first chick to hatch normally kills the other one.

The eagle is a large and comparatively bulky bird with a heavy head and powerful bill. Compared to other birds, even birds of prey, eagles tend to have more evenly broad wings and fly in a faster and more direct fashion. This doesn’t mean that all eagle species are gigantic; the Booted Eagle is for instance of roughly the same size as a Common Buzzard.  

All eagle species have large and powerful hooked beaks adapted to tearing flesh from prey animals. They also have strong talon claws with which to hold on to prey and their legs are sturdy and muscular. In order to locate suitable prey, the eagle is equipped with astonishingly large pupils which are the primary reason behind its supreme eye sight. With such large pupils, the diffraction (scattering) of incoming light is minimal.
The largest eagles are the Philippine Eagle, Harpy Eagle, and Steller's Sea-Eagle, while the smallest species are found in the genus Spilornis. Spilornis eagles typically weigh around 500 grams and measure 45 cm.  

The Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) is endemic to the Philippines where it lives in mid-montane forests and feeds on reptiles, birds, cat-sized Asian Palm Civets, flying lemurs, and even monkeys. Females are larger than males, average 112 centimeters in length and weighsabout 7 kg. This is the world's largest living eagle in terms of length, but with a wingspan of “just” 2 metres it has a shorter wingspan that eagles living in open country, such as Steller's Sea-Eagle. The wings of the Philippine Eagle is however comparatively thick and have a greater surface area than any other eagle.

The Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja) inhabits tropical lowland rainforests in the Americas where it chiefly preys on tree-dwelling mammals like sloths, coatis, and monkeys. It is also known to eat other birds, such as macaws. Female Harpy Eagles are larger than the males and average 108 cm in length with a 200 cm wingspan. They normally weigh 6.5-9 kg. A captive kept female Harpy Eagle named Jezebel reached a weight of 12.3 kg, but wild eagles normally get less food and more exercise which keeps the weight down. Just like the Philippine Eagle, the Harpy Eagle has a comparatively short wingspan to more easily manoeuvre in the forest.

Steller's Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus) is the heaviest eagle in the world with females, who are larger and heavier than males, weighing from 6.8 to 9 kg. It is however generally smaller than both Philippine Eagles and Harpy Eagles; the typical length range for this species is “only” 86.5-105 cm. The wingspan is however larger, 203-241 cm, since this eagle lives in open coastal areas. It breeds in north-eastern Russia, on the Kamchatka peninsula, the coastal area around the Sea of Okhotsk, the lower reaches of the Amur river and on northern Sakhalin and the Shantar Islands. During the winter, most specimens migrate south to Japan. Being a coastal species, Steller's Sea Eagle preys chiefly on fish, especially large salmon, trout and cod. The fish is supplement with other water-dwelling animals, such as crabs, squid, and swans, and this eagle may also prey on young seals, although it is more likely to eat seal carrion than kill seals on its own.

Eagle articles

Bald Eagle
American Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle Fact


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