Animal Stories : Eagles
How many of us have gazed into the sky and not wondered at the power, beauty and magnificience of an eagle circling overhead?
We can imagine all eagles as big, lion-like predators, and it is true that some eagles can weigh over 20 pounds-but this is not always the case. The smallest eagles weigh little more than a pound, and a bald eagle does not outweigh the average house cat. With wingspans of three to four feet, these birds are among the most efficient predators in the sky.
To see an eagle hunt is like watching a highly trained pilot in an air show. It can swoop through the air at incredible speeds, sometimes diving at 200 miles per hour. Keen eyesight helps it identify prey as small as a rabbit from a distance of two miles. Some eagles can strike with more force than a rifle bullet, and strong talons are used to snatch and hold victims. Eagles hunt with little fear of being hunted themselves.
Eagles prefer to eat fish, other birds, and mammals. Different species are specialised to capture different types of prey. When hunting becomes too difficult, some eagles turn to stealing the catch of other birds.
Many eagles return to the same nesting sites year after year. The chicks are watched over by the female, and sometimes by the male as well. From their first days, the tiny chicks are gently fed small bits of meat, and grow at an amazing rate. Sixty-eighty days after hatching, a baby eagle will make its first attempt at flight. Soon after, it is soaring the skies!
Eagles can be found in trees, on mountain ledges, cliffs, and in the skies of every continent in the world except Antarctica. Each species is perfectly adapted to the prey it hunts and to the habitat in which it lives, and each is important to the balance of the natural world.
Of all animals, the eagle is one of the most closely linked to people. Because eagles will sometimes eat carrion (animals they find already dead), they are at risk from eating rodents and other animals poisoned by people. They are also at risk from insecticides that wash into rivers and poison fish.
•Some eagles weigh over 20 pounds, while the smallest eagles weigh little more than a pound.
•An eagle’s wingspan spreads to three to four feet.
•An eagle can swoop through the air at incredible speeds, sometimes diving at 200 miles per hour.
•An eagle’s keen eyesight helps identify prey as small as a rabbit from a distance of two miles.
•Some eagles can strike with more force than a rifle bullet.
•Many eagles return to the same nesting sites year after year.
•A bay eagle makes its first attempt at flight only 68 days after hatching.