The eagle is one of the largest winged animals in the world. These birds of prey come in huge sizes, but does this mean they are also strong enough to carry heavy large prey?
Perhaps their size makes you wonder: how much weight can an eagle carry? The answer depends on the eagle species, but according to comparison studies, this bird can carry, on average, a minimum of 3 pounds to as heavy as 20 pounds.
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How Much Can an Eagle Lift?
Eagles are powerful birds of prey. They are capable of hunting and carrying a good-sized mammal or reptile.
In general, eagles have an average carrying capacity that is relative to their size. They will not attempt to carry anything that is considerably heavier than their weight.
On average, a male eagle can lift prey weighing 0.7 kilograms or 1.5 pounds. A female eagle, according to another source, can lift 1.1 kg (2.5 lb) to 1.4 kilograms (3 lb) depending on the wind conditions and whether the prey is dead or alive. Specific species have different carrying capacities, which will be discussed in the next section.
Eagle Lifting Weights by Species
1. Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja)
The harpy eagle or the American harpy eagle is considered one of the most powerful raptors. It is also one of the largest existing species of eagle in the world.
This bird has black and white feathers: black on the head and the upper side of the body and predominantly white on the underside. The lower legs have distinctive black stripes and can be as thick as a small human wrist.
Among harpy eagles, the female is significantly larger than the male with an average weight of 6 to 9 kg. Meanwhile, the male harpy eagle weighs around 4 to 6 kg, or 8.8-13.2 lb.
Harpy eagles often hunt from trees, and they are known to easily carry prey that is half their weight.
Minimum carrying capacity: 3 to 4.5 kg (or half of their weight on average)
Maximum carrying capacity: 18 kilograms (40 lb)
2. Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
The bald eagle is a sea eagle of the genus Haliaeetus. It is a large bird of prey that feeds mainly on fish.
It has white plumage on the head and tail and brown on the rest of the lower body. It is not bald, but this majestic bird derived its moniker from an archaic English term that means “white-headed”.
Both the male and female bald eagles have the same color, but the size sets them apart, since the female is bigger than its male counterpart, weighing 5.6 kg (12 lb) versus 4.1 kg (9.5 lb) on average.
Bald eagles are considered as opportunistic carnivores because they eat all kinds of prey ranging from an assortment of fish, birds, to mammals. Bald eagles can lift the weight of fish at least equal to their body mass, but according to some sources, they cannot lift more than half of their weight.
There have been proven accounts of bald eagle carrying deer. This bird carried a mule deer in flight with a weight of 6.8 kg.
Minimum carrying capacity: 1.3 to 1.8 kg (3-4 lb)
Maximum carrying capacity: 6.8 kg (15 pounds)
3. Steller’s Eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus)
Also known as the Pacific Eagle, the Steller’s eagle is a bird of prey that is active during the daytime. The feathers of this eagle are brownish, with a mix of white plumage on the wings and tail. Its talons are yellow like its beak.
This species is native to countries in Northeast Asia such as China, Korea, and Japan. It is also found in Russia.
The average weight of a female eagle is 6.2 kg to 9.5 kg (13.7 to 20.9 lb). The male Steller’s eagle weighs lighter than the female at around 4.9 to 6.8 kg (10.8 to 15 lb). It is one of the largest birds of prey and the largest species in the genus it belongs to.
This eagle’s diet is composed mainly of fish. It can carry prey that weigh around 4.9 to 11 lb or 2.2 to 5 in kg. Some sources say Steller’s eagles can also get fish that weigh around 6 to 7 kg (13 to 15 lb).
Minimum carrying capacity: 2.2 kg to 5kg (4.9 to 11 lb).
Maximum carrying capacity: 6 to 7 kg (13 to 15 lb)
Factors Affecting the Carrying Capacity of Eagles
1. The size and wingspan of the eagle
The anatomy of the eagle, specifically the wingspan and size, determines how many pounds it can lift. An expansive wingspan can help an eagle hold more weight and affect flight aerodynamics.
Aside from that, the age of the bird is another factor that affects its ability to carry heavy prey while flying. More mature birds tend to have tougher talons to hold food and more experience in hunting and determining which prey they can lift.
2. Wind conditions, direction, and speed
The weather conditions of the day, such as the presence of a headwind and the speed and direction of the prevailing wind can affect how much an eagle can lift.
The speed of the eagle or its momentum as it flies down to catch its target also aids this bird in carrying weight. A faster speed increases strength, so it is not surprising to see an eagle pick up a goat in an accelerated motion.
3. The behavior of the object/prey
Live prey may be difficult to carry, unless it is injured or relatively smaller than the eagle. Eagles will struggle to carry smaller animals when they are resisting and fighting back.
Hence, it’s rare to see an eagle pick up a cat. Cats are not its preferred prey because of their sharp claws, and birds such as the bald eagle would rather catch fish than take animals such as cats.
Frequently Asked Questions
What makes an eagle strong?
Eagles are strongly built because of their size and anatomical features such as their powerful legs, wide wingspan, and strong talons. An eagle holds its prey in its talons with a force ten times stronger than our hands can exert.
What is the weight of an eagle?
The weight of an eagle depends on the species. The previous section cited the average weight of certain eagle types. One of the heaviest eagles is the Steller’s eagle, which boasts a weight of around 5 to 10 kilograms (11 to 22 lb).
The European golden eagle has an average weight of 2.8-4.6 kg or 6.2 to 10.1 pounds for the males, while the female golden eagle is heavier at 3.8 to 6.7 kg (8.4-14.8 lb).
Can an eagle pick up a dog?
Yes, an eagle can pick up a small dog easily. The size it can carry depends on the species of the eagle as well as the weight of the dog.
Eagles do not actively target dogs as prey, especially when there are humans present.
Can eagles pick up humans?
Eagles cannot carry humans because the weight of an adult human (61.2 kg or 135 lb on average) is more than the weight of most species of eagles.
Eagles are truly one of the strongest birds in the world. So, how much weight can an eagle carry? As a general rule, they can only carry animals or objects equivalent to half or equal their weight.
Exceptions to this rule are influenced by other external factors. If you see an eagle carrying a fox (which is quite heavy for this bird), it was perhaps due to other conditions such as the speed of the eagle and the wind conditions.
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