If you’ve ever seen an eagle catch a fish or a rodent, you were probably amazed by the eagle’s hunting skills. Perhaps it made you wonder, what does an eagle eat? Do they have many different food sources, or do they all eat the same thing all the time? Keep reading to find out more!
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What Do Eagles Eat in the Wild?
There are many different species of eagle throughout the world, and all of them are carnivorous. That said, what they eat depends largely on the particular species and the region it lives in.
For example, eagles living in desert regions might rely more on reptiles and small rodents, while eagles living near bodies of water may have a diet of mostly fish. In this sense, eagles aren’t terribly picky about their food choices and may be considered opportunistic eaters.
It’s also worth noting that, according to the National Eagle Center, eagles don’t have to eat every day. They generally eat between half a pound and a pound of food per day, but they can eat up to two pounds if they have gone for some time without food.
Let’s take a closer look at some specific food groups and discuss which types of eagles will eat them.
Do Eagles Eat Fish?
Yes, many eagles eat fish. In fact, fish is a top food choice of the bald eagle, which typically lives in wetland environments or near large bodies of water, as well as the African fish eagle.
Eagles have incredible eyesight, which allows them to spot fish in the water as they are flying high above. They are able to track the movements of the fish as they swoop down toward the water, eventually snatching the fish with its powerful talons.
Check out this video to see just how skilled bald eagles are at fishing.
Sometimes the fish is killed as soon as it’s captured, but most often the fish is still alive as the eagle begins to eat it. Eagles prefer fresh meat, and they do not make any special efforts to kill the fish before eating.
Do Eagles Eat Plants?
Because all eagles are carnivores, they don’t typically eat plants. There is no known species of eagle that consumes plants as their primary food source.
That said, many eagles may nibble on plants for various reasons. If there is a patch of grass or weeds growing in the nest, for example, they may pluck it up and eat it.
They may also nibble on pine needles or leaves stuck to branches in their nest–again, as a way of removing them. Sometimes they will even pluck and eat blades of grass from the ground.
Again, though, plants are not really a food source for eagles, and they could not survive on eating plants alone.
Do Eagles Eat Snakes?
For many eagles, especially those who don’t live near bodies of water, snakes are a staple food. The golden eagle and the Philippine eagle are two species that eat snakes as part of their regular diet.
These eagles capture and crush snakes with their talons before eating them. Eagles can only carry animals weighing up to a few pounds, so they are limited to catching small and medium-sized snakes.
Do Eagles Eat Mice?
Yes, there are many species of eagles that eat both mice and rats, such as the golden eagle and the long-crested eagle. Mice and rats make for tasty snacks that are easy to capture, carry, and feed to eaglets.
Again, mice are usually preferred by eagles who don’t live in wetlands or near water sources. Because they are so small, they are also generally preferred by smaller eagles, though this is not always the case.
Do Eagles Eat Rabbits?
Rabbits are a top food choice for a number of different eagle species throughout the world. In North America, both bald eagles and golden eagles have been known to eat rabbits.
Rabbits make a good sized meal for both of these North American eagle species. They are large enough to provide a substantial meal, but light enough for the eagles to capture and carry with ease.
Do Eagles Eat Squirrels?
As you can tell from the above sections in this article, eagles enjoy eating many different species of small mammals. Squirrels are no exception.
Golden eagles in particular eat various types of rodents, reptiles, birds, and even larger mammals such as deer and foxes. They enjoy eating squirrels because they are small and lightweight.
The steppe eagle, found in Europe, Asia, and Africa, is also known for eating squirrels regularly.
Eagles eat squirrels, and other animals, bones and all. They have powerful digestive systems with enzymes that are strong enough to dissolve the bones, which contain many nutrients the eagles need.
Do Bald Eagles Eat Dead Animals?
Most eagle species prefer their food fresh and recently killed, but as noted above, they are opportunistic eaters. They will eat dead animals during times of food shortages if they cannot find anything better.
Some eagles, such as the long-crested eagle and the steppe eagle, eat carrion as part of their regular diet. Some are less picky about what they eat and how it was killed, while others are a bit more choosy as long as they are not desperately hungry.
Many eagles will scavenge roadkill, while others will steal the recently-killed prey of other eagles or animals. Still others will eat animals that have died of old age or other causes, which can sometimes harm the eagle.
For example, eagles will sometimes eat dead rats that they find. If a rat was killed by chemical poisoning, then the eagle ingests the poison when it eats the rat and, in turn, may die from the same poison.
In most cases, though, an eagle’s digestive system is able to metabolize almost anything and rid its body of a number of toxins. This is what gives eagles the ability to eat so many different things.
Eagles eat lots of different foods–from tiny mice to deer and foxes–depending on species and location. One thing they all have in common, though, is that all eagles are carnivores and, as such, are considered opportunistic eaters.