Eagles are known for being fierce hunters, but they are extremely lightweight for their size. Have you ever seen an eagle carrying prey or tree branches in its talons? Perhaps you’re wondering, how much weight can an eagle carry? Can eagles carry off dogs or humans? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions and more.
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How Much Weight Can an Eagle Carry Away?
Eagles are majestic creatures protected in the United States by law. But despite their wide wingspan and powerful talons, they can’t carry a whole lot of weight.
Exactly how much weight an eagle can carry depends on the species. Most species can only carry a few pounds at a time.
For example, bald eagles generally weigh about 10 to 12 pounds and can carry about one third of their own weight. So the average amount of weight a bald eagle can carry is 3 to 4 pounds.
There are several factors that affect this number, however.
Some bald eagles are larger and stronger than others; these may be able to carry a slightly higher amount of weight. The eagle’s age may also play a role; mature eagles in their prime will be able to carry more weight than very young or very old eagles.
Another important factor is momentum–how fast the eagle is flying and how much they have to slow down to pick up their load. In general, greater airspeed allows them to carry more weight because their momentum aids their strength.
A bald eagle (or any eagle, for that matter) can snatch a large fish or a bird of prey while in flight, often barely slowing their flight pattern in the process. They can carry a heavier load this way than if they had to land first.
As stated by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game,
“An eagle that lands on the beach to grab a fish, and then takes off again, is limited to a smaller load than an eagle that swoops down at 20 or 30 miles an hour and snatches up a fish. That momentum and speed gives the bird the ability to carry more weight.”
Regardless of exact weight, eagles can’t travel as far with heavier loads as they can with lighter loads. If they are unable to transport a large kill all at once, they will sometimes divide their prey into smaller chunks and transport them to the nest in separate pieces.
What’s the Heaviest an Eagle Can Carry?
In North America, a bald eagle may be able to carry up to 7 or 8 pounds if conditions are ideal. Golden eagles may be able to carry a bit more, but even most of the largest eagles in the world will not be able to carry more than 10 or 12 pounds at once.
The harpy eagle is a notable exception. This giant jungle-dwelling eagle can haul up to 20 pounds at once under ideal conditions.
What are these ideal conditions we keep referring to? To be able to carry the maximum amount of weight, an eagle would need the following conditions:
- Wide open spaces to allow for wide wingspans and fast flight patterns;
- A high rate of speed–at least 20 to 30 miles per hour–and the ability to maintain much of that speed as they grab their intended load;
- A wide wingspan;
- The ability to snatch the load in flight without having to land;
- If the load is prey, it would need to be weak, injured, or otherwise unable to fight back.
Of course, these ideal conditions rarely all come together at once, so even though an eagle may be able to carry prey and objects of unusually large weights, they rarely do.
Can an Eagle Pick Up a Dog?
You may have heard stories about eagles diving at dogs and carrying them off, leash and all. The truth is, many of these stories are largely exaggerated.
It is true that some eagles may have the strength to carry off some small dogs, depending on the weight of the dog. Generally, though, eagles stay away from dogs because they don’t like getting too close to people.
So, the chance of having your dog picked off by an eagle, even if you see them hanging around your local dog park, is extremely rare.
Of course, if a dog is left unattended or gets lost in a wooded area, especially if the eagles in the area are experiencing a food shortage, the dog may become more of a target. Even larger dogs may be at risk if they are alone, as eagles have the ability to kill much larger prey than they can carry and they will take whatever they can get if they’re starving.
Can an Eagle Pick Up a Human?
Similar to the dog stories, there have been rumors of eagles picking up and carrying off children, especially younger children who are still quite small. The good news is, none of these rumors have ever been validated.
First of all, it’s extremely unlikely that an eagle could lift and carry a child, as even a newborn baby would be almost too heavy for an eagle’s slight frame.
Also, once again, eagles are unlikely to get close to humans. They will not risk approaching adult humans even if they are fairly confident in their ability to carry off the children.
That said, it’s important to keep children close at all times if you live in an area with eagles. Young eagles may dive at very small children who get lost or separated from other people in the group, which may cause serious injuries.
Young eagles learn how to hunt by experimenting, by testing the limits of what they can and can’t do. Of all eagles, juveniles are the most likely to attempt to carry off kids or pets, but even then, this is extremely rare and unlikely.
What’s more, it would be almost impossible for the eagle to fly off with the child.
What Bird Can Carry the Most Weight?
Earlier in this article, we mentioned the harpy eagle. This powerful bird, which lives in Central and South America, appears to be capable of carrying the most weight of any bird of flight.
The harpy eagle stands 3 to 4 feet tall and has a wingspan of up to 8 feet. These eagles weigh up to 20 pounds and can carry up to their own weight if conditions are ideal.
Though harpy eagles don’t make a habit of carrying 20 pounds every time they go out for a hunt, they will regularly carry around 10 to 12 pounds.
Harpy eagles have been known to eat a wide variety of prey, including ocelots, iguanas, boa constrictors, and even caimans. Sometimes they will also steal livestock such as chickens and turkeys, goats, piglets, and lambs.
Check out this video to learn more about harpy eagles:
Most eagles can carry 3 to 4 pounds, though some are able to carry much more. The harpy eagle, for example, can carry up to 20 pounds of weight at once.
How much weight an eagle can carry depends on their species, how fast they are flying, how wide their wingspan, and even how old they are.