Masters of the Sky
Eagles are large birds of prey, characterized by their powerful build, broad wings and heavy head and bill. They inhabit all major land regions other than Antarctica and New Zealand. Eagles have very large, powerful hooked beaks for tearing flesh from their prey, strong legs, and powerful talons. They also have exceptional eyesight to enable them to spot potential prey from a very long distance. Studies suggest that some eagles can spot an animal the size of a rabbit up to 2 miles away!
Eagles have been recognized as symbols of power, courage, freedom and immortality since ancient times. In some religions, high-soaring eagles are believed to touch the face of God. Legend holds that Mexico's Aztecs so revered the birds that they built Tenochtitlan, their capital, at the spot where an eagle perched on a cactus to devour a snake.
Eagles are among the world's largest birds of prey. The largest, including the Harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja) and the Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi), can weigh more than 9 kg (20 lbs) and have a wingspan of 2.5 m (8 ft). Using their massive, sharp talons, these giants can kill and carry off prey as large as deer, sloth and monkeys.
The Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) was chosen as the emblem of the United States, because of its long life, great strength and majestic looks.
Your chances of seeing one in the wild
Although once abundant, some eagles are becoming rare and face extinction. Although protected by law, some large eagles are killed by farmers and gamekeepers or captured for use in falconry. In addition, the bald eagle, like other birds, has been affected by the widespread use of pesticides that, ingested, can weaken eggs.
Many species of the eagle are listed as endangered and vulnerable on the World Conservation Union’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. But conservation efforts are helping and the bald eagle has made a dramatic comeback in the past few years.