Eagles are large birds of prey which are members of the bird family Accipitridae and belong to several genera which are not necessarily closely related to each other.
The eagle has always been considered as the king of birds, on account of its great strength, rapidity and elevation of flight, natural ferocity, and the terror it inspires into its fellows of the air.
There are more than 60 different species of eagle.
Most of the species of eagles are from Eurasia and Africa. Outside this area, just 14 species can be found – 2 in North America, 9 in Central and South America, and 3 in Australia.
Eagles have a lifespan between 14 and 35 years in the wild, depending on species.
They are large, powerfully built birds of prey, with a heavy head and beak.
The smallest species of eagle is the South Nicobar serpent eagle (Spilornis klossi), at 450 grams (0.99 pounds) and 40 centimeters (16 inches).
Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) [photo below] is considered the largest species of eagles in the world in terms of length and wing surface, with the Steller’s sea eagle and the harpy eagle being larger in terms of weight and bulk.
The female of all known species of eagles is larger than the male
Eagles are diurnal, meaning they are most active during the day and sleep at night.
Eagles are generally solitary or found in pairs, however, wintering adults may also be found in groups during times of extreme weather or very abundant food.
They have adapted well to their dominant predatory lifestyle.
Like all birds of prey, eagles have very large hooked beaks for ripping flesh from their prey, strong muscular legs, and powerful talons.
Like all raptors, eagles kill their prey with their talons.
The eagle eye is among the strongest in the animal kingdom, with an eyesight estimated at 4 to 8 times stronger than that of the average human. An eagle is said to be able to spot a rabbit 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) away. Although an eagle may only weigh 4.5 kg (10 pounds), its eyes are roughly the same size as those of a human.
Their eyes don’t move much in the eye socket, but an eagle can rotate its head about 270 degrees, just like an owl can, to look around. Eagles also have a clear eyelid that protects their precious eyes from dust and dirt.
Some eagles are built with short wings and long tails enabling them to hunt in the tight confines of a forest, while others have short tails and broad long wings allowing them to soar high above open plains and water.
Some eagles can fly hundreds of kilometers while foraging for their food.
Eagles are carnivores, which means that they feed only on meat. They mostly hunt their prey, though some species actively hunt more than others. Prey includes fish, rabbits, marmots, hares, ground squirrels, mice, and sometimes slow-flying birds, reptiles, martens, foxes, and even deer. Some species of eagles are scavengers, which means that they primarily eat fish and animals that are already dead.
Eagles do not need to eat every day. They have a special digestive organ known as the crop, which stores food until there is room for it in the stomach. This allows them to store a large meal until it is later needed, and prevents the eagle from growing weak if food is scarce for several days or weeks.
Eagles are monogamous. They mate for life and use the same nest each year.
Eagles normally build their nests, called eyries, in tall trees or on high cliffs. Male and female eagles build the nest together. Both eagles will bring sticks to add to the nest structure and arrange them within the nest. The nest building activity is part of their pair bonding.
Many species lay from one to three eggs. Both males and females share incubation responsibilities but the female typically spends more time on the nest than the male. It takes 35 days for eagle eggs to hatch. A young eagle is called an eaglet. The older, larger chick frequently kills its younger sibling once it has hatched.
Eagles are often informally divided into four groups: Sea eagles or fish eagles take fish as a large part of their diets, either fresh or as carrion; Booted eagles so-called because feathers grow down the legs and cover the toes; Snake or serpent eagles are, as the name suggests, adapted to hunting reptiles; Harpy eagles or “giant forest eagles” are large eagles that inhabit tropical forests.
Golden eagles can reach maximum air speed of 320 kilometers (200 miles) per hour!
The bald eagle is noted for having flown with the heaviest load verified to be carried by any flying bird, since one eagle flew with a 6.8 kilograms (15 pounds) mule deer fawn.
Golden and crowned eagles have killed ungulates weighing up to 30 kilograms (66 pounds) and a martial eagle even killed a 37 kilograms (82 pounds) duiker, 7–8 times heavier than the preying eagle.
Eagles are admired the world over as living symbols of power, freedom, and transcendence.
In some religions, high-soaring eagles are believed to touch the face of God.
The eagle represents spiritual protection, carries prayers, and brings strength, courage, wisdom, illumination of spirit, healing, creation, and a knowledge of magic.
Native Americans historically gave eagle feathers to non-indigenous people and also members of other tribes who were deemed worthy.
The modern word eagle was derived from Latin: aquila by way of French: aigle. The origin of aquila is unknown, but it is believed to possibly derive from either aquilus (meaning dark-colored, swarthy, or blackish) as a reference to the plumage of eagles or from aquilo (meaning north wind).