Eagle Diet & Feeding

/Eagle Diet & Feeding
Eagle Diet & Feeding

What does a bald eagle eat?
Fish is the primary food of bald eagles, but they will eat a variety of other animals and birds. Their prey items include waterfowl and small mammals like squirrels, prairie dogs, raccoons and rabbits. Bald eagles are opportunistic predators meaning that in addition to hunting for live prey, they will steal from other animals (primarily from other eagles or smaller fish eating birds) or scavenge on carrion.

What does a golden eagle eat?
A golden eagle’s diet consists primarily of small to medium size mammals such as rabbits, ground squirrels and marmots, as well as birds and reptiles. They have been observed preying on larger mammals like young pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep. Golden eagles are terrestrial predators. They are rarely found near the water and generally do not feed on fish.

How much can an eagle eat at one time?
The average eagle needs between ½ and 1 pound of food each day. However, eagles do not need to eat daily. Because food sources may not be available daily, an eagle can gorge on food when it is available and hold up to 2 pounds of food in their crop.

How large is an eagle’s stomach?
An eagle’s stomach is quite small, about the size of a walnut. However, eagles can eat up to 1/3 of their own body weight in food. They have an area called the crop to store food, allowing them to survive without finding food everyday.

How do eagles kill their prey?
Like all raptors, eagles kill their prey with their talons. Each eagle foot has four very sharp talons, three in the front facing back and one larger talon (the hallux) in the back facing forward. The crushing strength of each talon (provided by powerful leg muscles) is estimated to be at least 400 pounds per square inch (psi) per talon.

Do eagles eat the bones of their prey?
Yes, and the bones provide important nutrients. The acids in the eagle’s digestive system are strong enough to dissolve bones, which are completely digested.

How much can an eagle carry?
An eagle can carry about 1/3 its body weight. Although eagles have the power to kill prey many times their own size, eagles are unable to carry more than just a few pounds.

If a bald eagle catches a fish that is too heavy to lift out of the water, the eagle may “swim” a short distance to shore dragging the fish still gripped in their talons and using their wings in breast stroke fashion.