Their fierce portraits stare out from cave paintings crafted by long-forgotten Stone Age masters. Their hooked beaks and deadly claws have adorned flags that led armies from Rome to Germany into battle. The spot on which one landed dictated to the ancient Aztecs the place where they were to build a city.


Humans have long revered eagles.

Eagles. For centuries, these seemingly larger-than-life birds have fascinated and inspired us.

We venerate them as living symbols of power, freedom, and transcendence. 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.

Behind this extraordinary reverence, however, is the even more remarkable story of how Earth’s 59 species of eagles live their high-flying lives. That story is told in the NATURE program Eagles, which gives a rare bird’s-eye-view of these masters of the sky. Eagles documents the stunning acrobatics and the ferocious hunting skills that have made these birds the nobility of feathered society, from the plains of Africa and the rivers of Alaska to the forests of the Philippines and the seas off Japan.

When eagles come to mind, people commonly imagine some enormous hunter soaring above wide-open spaces on outsized wings. Indeed, eagles are among the world’s largest birds of prey. The largest, including the Harpy Eagle and the Philippine Eagle, can weigh more than 20 pounds and have wings that spread eight feet across. Using their massive, sharp talons, these giants can kill and carry off prey as large as deer and monkeys.

But not all eagles fit this stereotype: some are just small balls of feathers content to flap short distances, dining on insects or even fruit. The Crested Serpent Eagle, for instance, is no bigger than a pigeon and spends its days walking and climbing through its African forest home in search of snakes. And the African Vulturine Fish-Eagle is primarily a vegetarian, eschewing meat in favor of rich oil palm fruits.

Overall, scientists recognize four groups of eagles: The world’s 12 species of “serpent eagles” (also called “snake-eagles”) typically perch on trees and feed on snakes, frogs, and lizards. The six buzzard-like eagles are forest-dwelling giants, such as the Harpy and Philippine eagles, and prey on large mammals like deer.


Eagles glide for hours at a time.

The thirty “booted” eagles, so-called because feathers grow down the legs and cover the toes, include the widest-ranging eagle of them all: the Golden Eagle, which is found around the world and has learned to feast on an assortment of prey. In Greece, Golden Eagles even eat turtles, dropping them from great heights onto rocks to break open their armored shells. The eleven sea eagles, which include America’s beloved Bald Eagle, tend to specialize in eating fish and water birds — some even hunt flamingoes and poisonous sea snakes.

Biologists also recognize another significant difference among eagles: some are built to hunt in the tight confines of a forest, while others are designed to soar high above open plains and water with nary a wing flap.

The forest eagles, such as the Crested Serpent Eagle, have short wings and long tails that enable them to twist and turn easily — an advantage when chasing prey at high speed through tree trunks and branches. In contrast, soaring eagles, such as the Golden Eagle and Africa’s Bateleur Eagle, have short, wide tails and broad, long wings that enable them to glide effortlessly on rising air currents. There is a tradeoff, however: soaring eagles tend to be poor flyers, making every takeoff and landing an adventure! As a result, soaring eagles often hunt from high perches, where they can literally “fall” into the air and swoop down on unsuspecting fish and mammals. Still, soaring provides an efficient means of covering ground — a necessity for eagles living in areas where food may be scarce. Golden eagles nesting in Wyoming, for instance, often have foraging areas that cover 100 square miles.

To defend these territories and attract a mate, soaring eagles put on spectacular aerial displays. The airshows include death-defying swoops and seemingly suicidal dogfights — undertaken against both rivals and potential partners — that involve locking talons with the other bird and free-falling in a death spiral. The great American poet Walt Whitman, witnessing one of these breathtaking displays by Bald Eagles, described it as “a living, fierce, gyrating wheel,/ four beating wings, two beaks, a swirling mass tight grappling,/ in tumbling turning clustering loops, straight downward falling.” Sometimes, the dogfights end only when the great birds crash into a treetop or, in rare instances, one dies from hitting the ground.


Eagles are known for their sharp vision.

Usually, however, eagle eyes are too keen for the birds to fly blindly into danger. In fact, eagles’ vision is among the sharpest of any animal. Wedge-tailed Eagles, for instance, can see twice as far as people. Studies suggest that some eagles can spot an animal the size of a rabbit up to two miles away.

In part, eagles have excellent vision because their eyes, which are very large in proportion to their heads, are densely packed with sensory cells. While humans typically have 200,000 light-sensitive cells per square millimeter of retina, eagles may have 1 million — five times more. Similarly, while humans have only one fovea, a funnel-shaped part of the retina where vision is sharpest, eagles have two. Finally, where people see just three basic colors, eagles see five, enabling them to pick out even well-camouflaged prey.

Unfortunately, even such remarkable traits have not protected eagles from harm. Around the world, many eagle populations are dwindling as a result of habitat destruction, hunting, and pollution. But conservation efforts are helping some species. In the U.S., for instance, the Bald Eagle has made a dramatic comeback over the last few decades. And on the island of Madagascar, the dramatic 1993 rediscovery of the Madagascar Serpent Eagle has raised hopes that its population also can be protected and restored.

Online content for Eagles was originally posted May 1998.

  • bob

    there are barely any facts about this crap!

  • Hanna Dryden

    eagles are very important!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  • poopstar harrison:

    is there any native eagles anybody?

  • roland

    Among all birds, Eagle is one that I love the most. But I do not have enough detail on this wonderful bird.

  • auntie smedley

    Bravo – What an amazing show! Exceptional nature filmmaking, with wonderful camera work.

    The scene showing that poor eagle suffering from lead poisoning brought tears to my eyes. I was so grateful to see the rehabilitator pick it up. I’m a longtime volunteer at a wildlife rehab center and we treat (not always successfully) a truly sad number of animals for lead poisoning.

  • Bitsy

    My friend said she saw an eagle in Brooklyn, NY in October 08. Could this be possible?

  • Scoutie

    I’ve seen a bald eagle twice, they are popular where I live. But every time I see one, I still feel amazed. Go Birdies!

  • Manuel

    Hi,I want to know if you have any information on bald eagles.

  • Pastor Segun osho

    It provides accurate information on what the Bible says about eagles. Isa.40:31 thereby supporting the veracity and authenticity of the Bible which was written more than 2000years ago.

  • mohammad

    It is an amazing website.I like it.

  • David

    Philippine eagles are known to carry off heavier prey than Harpy eagles and more ferocious like large snakes, monitor lizards and macaques large male monkeys can weigh as much as 20 lb. It was even documented to take a small deer to its nest about 14 kg and also documented to attack a large python.

    Source: http://birdbase.hokkaido-ies.go.jp/rdb/rdb_en/pithjeff.pdf
    (On page 14-16 of ECOLOGY)

  • Pastor Edgar Alulod

    Wow!!! This is great..!!!
    Really, Eagle is a Biblical type of leadership.
    Is there other illustrations of how the Eagles nurture their youngs…?

  • Deji Alao-Peters

    The life of this great bird leaves us with wonderful principles. God has given us so much to leran from the Eagle.2009 has been projected to be a tough year, just like the eagle we can ride on the storm(challenges) and soar into suceess . The Bible is Real. Isaiah 40:31.

  • heeena

    i think u have lots of info but u”r missiong one what on earth , are they protected by law———

  • Patricia

    The eagle truly is a great bird. Just as God is a great God. We as God’s mouth piece must learn to ride out the storm. We must learn to soar above the trials that we face daily and realize that God is still on the throne, and still answering prayers. If my people who are called by my name would humble themselves pray and seek my face then will I hear from heaven and heal the land. The land needs healing and protection just as the eagles needs protection.

  • Pastor Holymike

    Pastor Holymike of Lighthouse Covenant Church was teaching us about Flying like an Eagle

  • Jesus Soliz

    Eagles a very cool hunting bird for their food and they are so sweet at that.

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  • Dave

    On a recent trip we saw approxiamately 30 bald eagles on the ice on the Mississippi River. What do they call a group of eagles ie flock, gaggle, ????? It was a neat trip with over 50 eagles in the air sighted, plus all those on the ice.

  • Rhegan Wailus

    I never knew so much about Eagles until I came to this web site. If your looking for information about Eagles you should probably look hear too!
    Rhegan Wailus/McMahon School Lewiston, ME

  • Prophet. Joshua B. Cummings Sr.

    Prophet. Joshua B Cummings Sr. Says:
    Eagles has an unlimited capability sow at any hight.
    Like an eagle, we have the unlimited capability to sow on God’s Prophetic Word, into our glorious destiny.Be apprise, that the is no limit as to ,what you can doin the remaining days of your life on this earth.

  • Yaw Owusu Boafoh

    This is wonderful website that has full of information about eagle. I wish every one who want to study about eagles will visit this site.

  • Ben Oguh

    Eagles represent God’s Prophets. They are special birds. You can hadly exhaust your studies on eagles, they are God’s creatures they should not be worship. Sons and daughters of God are expected to have the characteristics of eagles, they are called eaglets while God is called The Papa Eagles !!Thank God for eagles..

  • clark

    who is the most endangered eagle of the world?

  • Rev.Jerry Ambi

    Praise God for His wonderful creation and one of it is the eagle, w/c is the symbol of leadership and revelation. In the history of christianity, eagle is the emblem used by Apostle John(John the beloved)because of its very prophetic nature. (John 16:13)

  • Deborah

    Eagles are beautifully amazing creatures, but, just remember, they will prey on a small dog or cat. in your back yard; so aware and protect your animals. They’ve made a big come back in my area, I’ve heard of several familys that lost their pets to eagles.

  • bobby

    i need to do a prodject on the bald eagle :)

  • Quentin

    Does the eagle really learn how to fly by being pushed out of the nest?

  • Rev. Academe S.O.

    My wife and I were really informed after studying your website in order to give a teaching on :”soaring high as Eagle” in a church. Thank you.

  • aussie girl

    it would be realy good if there were any wedge-tailed eagles on this webpage, because I can’t find them

  • Okoh A.Peters

    I am preparing a lesson for my pastors on EAGLE PASTORS.Your web site has given me great insight to what am reveiving in my spirit.Tanx

  • Ajulo Abiodun .O

    What a nice and accurate information on birds like the Eagles. Thank you for adding to my knowledge.


    When eagles come to mind, people commonly imagine some enormous hunter soaring above wide-open spaces on outsized wings. Indeed, eagles are among the world’s largest birds of prey. The largest, including the Harpy Eagle and the Philippine Eagle, can weigh more than 20 pounds and have wings that spread eight feet across. Using their massive, sharp talons, these giants can kill and carry off prey as large as deer and monkeys.

  • Julia

    great to have found this website while I was searching for some information on eagles lifespans. I received an e mail that had information that I wanted to check on. Do eagles go through a plucking and shedding process in old age that helps them to live longer? Being a conservationist, it sounds a bit unusual to me, but stranger things do happen. Can anyone shed some light on this?

  • Glenda

    I am also curious to know if it is true that eagles pluck their feathers, pull out their talons and shatter their beaks, at apparently age 30 or 40 years. Then a new beak, new talons and new feathers grow (approx 150 day peroid).This process allows them to live for another 30 odd years!?! Any comments?

  • andrew mcmillan

    what is the bald eagles group name called

  • kijo lucy

    awesome stuff, the eagles are one of natures wonderful marvels, no wonder many countries use the eagle symbol as their court of arms

  • Kefuoe Mongangane

    wow! wow! wow!….i started getting more interested in eagles cos a lot of the times in the bible it always mentions us as being like them…..so needed more info on their characters….thank you so much 4 this web site…i am finding out now!!!!!

  • Uncle Sam

    Regal Eagles are majestic and stoic creatures. They should not be caged, but should be allowed to fly free. Fly on eagles, fly on.

  • Derek Bibber

    I have been fortunate to live in Italy (serving in the US Air Force). My wife and I are raptor photographers on the side, and we’ve been blessed with seeing MANY different eagles… Short-toed Snake Eagles, Greater Spotted Eagles, Golden Eagles, Booted Eagles, Tawny Eagles, Stellar Sea Eagles, American Bald Eagles,Spanish Imperial/Eastern Imperial Eagles, Bataleur Eagles, African Fish Eagles and Steppe/Lesser Spotted Eagles. With exception to Golden, Short-toed Snakes and Greater Spotted Eagles, the above were seen at aviary centers (namely Burg Landskrom, and Burg Guttenberg in Austria and Germany, respectively.) It’s a blessing to see these creatures in real life and then captured on a show like this. Thank you so much PBS for educating all of us on these magnificant creatures!

  • joshua arogunyo

    i really want to know more about the eagle. i have seen an eagle just once in nigeria. i hope to still study more. thanks.

  • lobohawk

    Would you pull out your finger/toenails to have new ones grow in? Think about it – what garbage would anyone want to spread? Raptors moult (shed) feathers once a year for new ones to grow in – they do not pluck them. The beak and talons are constantly growing. Shattering their own beaks would do nothing for them except help them to starve to death. Large raptors such as eagles already have lifespans to 50+ years, longer in captivity (away from predators or natural dangers). Hope this helps.

  • Matonsky

    The eagles are symbolically recognized. They are well talked about in the bible too, of how great and mighty this animals are. They are not just any regular bird, like a goose, and ostrich, chicken and so on. It has a life span of 50 years, and more.

  • rudo

    i think you should post more information about eagles on my email. these animals are so wonderful. ask yourself this question why does God liken us to eagles in the bible. it’s because all the facts that you have read. have a vision of an eagle, soar like an eagle i think its amazing staff for those who do not believe it it’s your own loss

  • Barnet

    For many, eagles might be a sign of the hero. For me, they’re a sign of the unpeace and suffering.

  • wheng villasana

    jJust likean eagle we are dreaming to soar amazingly,and faithfully believe that GOD will lead us into his KINGDOM…………GOD BLESS US

  • nixon sports watch

    awesome stuff, the eagles are one of natures wonderful marvels, no wonder many countries use the eagle symbol as their court of arms

  • Matina Teba

    I was wondering why an eagle is mentioned in the bible,after reading the above infomation about eagles now I understand the importance us children of God to wait upon the LORD so that we can have this characteristics of an eagle.God bless!

  • sara

    melhor domandor de águias do mundo, alguém sabe?

  • kate

    a friend told me a very facinating story about this birds and some how i did relate to them. i will love to read more about this birds.

  • uyi osas

    Great subject. more should be said on their life style. from birth to death. tnks

  • olowo ayodele

    This is interesting!
    I am presently reading a book titled “soaring with the eagles” by Bill Newman. I am fascinated by what I read. I also read somewhere that eagles die facing the sun. Is this true?
    Kindly describe to me its life from birth to death.

  • Evan

    Thank you for this article. I have a question; why don’t eagles flight at night?

  • souravi

    I want to know about eagle’s strong wings,presence of claws,very good eyesight,sharp pinted beak

  • Griz

    It is pure internet-myth that Eagles shatter their beaks or pull out their talons.
    It’s a fabrication with the original intent of encouraging and strengthening people. Good intentions, for certain. But it has a totally opposite boomerang-effect once the truth is known.

    Especially if one has already incorporated the lie into their beliefs.

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  • Chio

    Eleven distint attributes of the eagles…

    1. Master fliers
    2. Master fishermen
    3. Fly alone
    4. Live on higher ground
    5. Extremely bold, courageous and powerful
    6. Majestic
    7. Mate for life
    8. Very patient
    9. Have two sets of eyes
    10. Nest are built in the wilderness
    11. Noticeable from a distance as a result of contrasting color patterns


  • Zachary

    Too bad they aren’t equipped with Ghillies. :P

  • Kristen Bieger

    Hey I have LOTS of showing and prize winning chickens for sale!!! They are $10 each. They lay lots of colorful eggs too! The types of chickens I have are Appenzellers, Jersey Giants, and Americanus. The appenzellers lay white eggs, the Jersey Giants lay brown eggs, and the Americanus lay green and blue eggs. Please tell me if you are interested!!! Thank You!!! =D

  • kwame Amoh

    The Bible talked about the Eagle…. I want the Holy Spirit to make Me like that of the Eagle……….

  • Kristen Bieger

    KWAME AMOH, would you like to purchase a chicken?

  • Watch Hockey

    I understand the importance us children of God to wait upon the LORD so that we can have this characteristics of an eagle.

  • Kristen Bieger

    nobody is reading my offer about the chickens =( maybe WATCH HOCKEY will buy one?

  • Thomas

    Very nice photos of eagles you can see at http://www.facebook.com/EuropeanWildlife

  • Kristen Bieger

    =( maybe Thomas wants a chicken?

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  • Melanie

    Do eagles really fly above the clouds when it rains or is this just a pretty quote? Who’s above the clouds to see them?

  • zandi

    Do eagles eat dead meat sometimes or do they kill their prey all the time? Please somebody reply the question about the unplucking of beak and talons.

  • whyte

    I love d eagle, my father in the Lord, Pastor E.A Adeboye of the Redeemed Christain Church of God world wide has also taught us about the eagles during our just concluded convention taged ‘ With wings like an eagle’ . I am now soaring like the eagle with all d attributes of this wonderful bird. Thank 4 creationi

  • d2ba98

    excuse me uhhmm to lobohawk, I think eagles shatter their own beaks for survival and pluck their feathers because the feathers of the eagles at maybe 30-40 years it will be much heavier and it will be very hard and difficult for them to fly and they shatter their beaks because their beaks don’t grow straight, it grows pointing the heart of the eagle so if the eagles turn 50 years old, they can die because their beaks are sharp and it points their heart.. And also, the one you just said earlier, uhhhhmmmmmm, we cut our fingernails for new ones to grow isn’t that right? But for the point of view of the eagles, they can’t just shatter their beaks after a month or two just like our fingernails so they do it when it’s really abundant (at the age of 30-40). lobohawk, try not cutting your fingersnails for 30 years and we’ll see what happens… I’m sorry. I just want to correct what is wrong…=)

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  • asanda

    God want us to be like EAGLES because were are not designed to be chickens or birds. the God that created heaven and earth has put you for a purpose, so FLY high, dont limit GOD

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  • Francisco d’Anconia

    The Bald Eagle is my hero ! I love this animal so much and he is represented on my wall in my office. Thanks for posting such an inspiring story.

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  • arun sud

    I am aware of Eagle Hunters in Kazakhistan and seen videos how they hunt foxes and wolves. I am on the verge of abandoning my small orchard / farm operations in the Himalayan foothills because monkeys have become a big menace and do not allow any fruits or vegetables crops to grow. Dogs are not effective and electric fencing besides being non viable in my particular location, is too expensive. Can anyone suggest if a trained eagle could be a solution and how it can can be procured / purchased in India to scare / drive away the monkeys?

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    Can anybody tells me more about the eagle vision difference between seeing object near and far.
    I know eagle has an excellnet object ideniftication from long distance.How about if it lands near to the object, can able to see the same object with same qaultiy.

  • Resilient Heart

    I have a facination for eagles…the most amazing bird of prey…It is full of strength..and independance…beautiful and amazing. I reside in Pakistan and where I live I see eagles almost everywhere..you lift your eyes upwards and see them soaring away..interestingly enough I happen to have build an affiliation with 2 eagles who spend their entire time either perched on high where they can watch me going about my chores..waiting impatiently for their food of the day….I have penned down a poem on them which I would like to share with you all cos this is just the right platform that I luckily happen to bump in today while I was searching for something on eagles.

    ~I hear him ..the whistling sound
    I know..I can tell..when he’s around..
    perched up high..pruning feathers
    as strong as steel,,
    waiting anxiously for his morning meal..
    I pack his favourite bite in a plastic wrap
    fling it accross..high up in the air ..
    in seconds he takes his regal flair..
    zooming down gracefully he clutches his scrap
    heads toward his usual kingly abode
    starts nipping ..devouring the long awaited food..
    And as I watch him soar above high
    looking above at the sky
    marvelling at the lightening speed of his pace
    my magnificient eagle and his flight of grace.

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