The eagle is often associated with power, inspiration, freedom, victory, speed, prowess and even royalty. Why is it that so many nations and cultures feel this way about this apex predator?
Is it their fierce stare? The hooked beaked and massive, powerful talons? Their soaring above the clouds where most birds never venture? Their stunning mid-air acrobatic displays? Their strength, allowing them to carry prey up to 15 lbs, like a mule deer?
Probably yes to all the above. There are 60 different species of eagles. Their habitats are found mostly in Eurasia and Africa. Outside of these areas, 2 species live in North America, 9 in Central and South America, and 3 in Australia. I also did not know that all eagles are not massive and strong. The African Crested Serpent Eagle for example is no bigger than a pigeon, and the African Vulturine Fish-Eagle is primarily a vegetarian, eschewing meat in favor of rich oil palm fruits. Other general fun facts:
- Eagles are some of the largest birds.
- They are at the top of the food chain, with some species feeding on big prey like monkeys and sloths.
- An eagle’s eyesight is around 5 times better than the human’s vision. Eagles have amazing eyesight and can detect prey up to two miles away.
- Eagles can detect UV light and can identify colors better than humans.
Let me show you some of the eagles I have come across in travel or have seen photos of from other photographers. I have identified which photos are mine – the rest are from the internet.
BALD EAGLE – I got a chance to meet the handsome bald eagle at the top of this post during my hiking excursion in Alaska. His name is Adonis and he is a resident of the 200 acre Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, a non-profit refuge for orphaned, injured and/or ill animals that wouldn’t have a chance out in the wilderness.
Adonis’ regal bearing shows nothing of his sad plight. Adonis is the victim of a shooting, despite the fact that it is illegal not only to harm an eagle, under the Bald Eagle Protection Act, but also to even possess a feather – only the First Nations indigenous people are allowed that honor.
Adonis’ left wing was so badly damaged that it unfortunately needed to be amputated. Undaunted, Adonis sits regally upon his perch and surveys all with a proud demeanor. What fierce beauty – and a great living testament to the fabulous work done by the AWCC. Here is another portrait of Adonis:
I have also seen many of his fellow bald eagles in the wild in Alaska – here are some photos:
Bald Eagle facts:
- It takes 4 to 5 years for a bald eagle to transition to its full white headed plumage, as at birth they are brown
- Male and female eagles look the same, and the female is larger than the male.
- They are very good swimmers,
- Bald Eagles can soar up to 10,000 feet in the air
- Bald Eagles’ gripping strength is ten times stronger than the average grip of an adult human hand.
GOLDEN EAGLE – I came upon these stunning eagles during my safaris in Africa:
BATELEUR – I didn’t realize when I took this photo that it was an eagle. It is midsize and its Greek and Latin scientific names mean “marvelous face, no tail”. The Bataleur does have a tail but it is very short. “Bateleur” is French for “a tightrope walker or balancer.” The bateleur is known for its aerial acrobatics, turning somersaults in the air:
The next three eagles are all species of crowned/crested eagles, and while I have never seen them in the wild, their looks are so extraordinary that I want to share them here.
CRESTED EAGLE – These are neotropical very large birds with some amazing facial plumage. This first one looks as though he is wearing a hat:
HARPY – This is one of the largest, most powerful and fiercest eagles, found in Mexico, Central and South America. It can weigh up to 20 lbs and grow to 40 inches in height with a 7 foot wingspan. Its prey includes many tree dwelling mammals such as sloths, monkeys, birds, iguanas and snakes. Its intimidating looks may be the reason it was named after the mythical Greek monsters that had the body of a bird and a human female face. They were feared agents of punishment as they carried evildoers off to Hades. The name means “snatchers” and harpies were also thought to be the hounds of the God Zeus.
The feathered disc surrounding its face is similar to that of an owl – it collects sound waves to help the harpy detect prey,
This last crested eagle maybe my favorite coiffed bird:
PHILIPPINE EAGLE – Also knowing as the monkey eating eagle, this is another large bird, about 3 feet in length and up to 18 lbs . It is critically endangered and there is a heavy fine and up to 12 years in a Philippine prison for killing one of these magnificent birds. Deforestation has led to mass loss in its habitat.
More fascinating birds to come from this “bird girl.”