Eagles are exceptional hunters; but is there ever a time when they become the hunted? What eats eagles in the food chain? Do they have any natural predators? Keep reading to find out more!
What You'll Learn Today
Are Eagles at the Top of the Food Chain?
As you are probably aware, some of the predators on a food chain are also prey. For example, many birds may eat small insects and fish, only to be eaten by larger birds or other predators.
Some of these larger predators are then eaten by still larger predators, such as a hawk that is subsequently eaten by a bear. At some point, though, this chain comes to an end, and some of the strongest, fiercest predators are left standing at the top.
Eagles are among this group of predators at the top of the food chain. There have few, if any, natural predators in the wild.
This does not mean that eagles are never killed or eaten by other animals, as there are times when even adult eagles are preyed upon by fellow predators. But there are no specific species known for eating eagles, and eagles are almost always hunters and rarely hunted.
This is why they are considered to be at the top of the food chain.
Are Eagles Apex Predators?
According to World Atlas, “Apex predators are those that sit on top of the food chain.” Since we’ve already established that eagles are at the top of the food chain, we must also assume they are considered apex predators.
If you think of the food chain in terms of a pyramid, the wide base of the pyramid is made up of plants; the section above that is made up of herbivores, the section above that of omnivores, and the section above that of carnivores.
This top section, or the apex of the pyramid, comprises the smallest group of organisms in the animal kingdom–they are some of the strongest animals in the world, and they are only hunted by other predators during food shortages or if they are in a weakened state.
Eagles are apex predators because they are not typically hunted by other animals. Instead, they hunt many different species lower down on the food chain.
It’s worth noting that all apex predators, including eagles, are still at risk from humans. Because apex predators are so feared, they are often hunted by humans or killed out of self-defense.
What Kinds of Animals Eat Eagles?
Though eagles rarely find themselves hunted instead of the hunters, there are some animals who will eat them. Eagles are especially susceptible to becoming prey when they are very young, injured, or sick.
On rare occasions, eagles will prey on each other; this usually happens during times of extreme food shortage or when an eagle is killed by something else and another eagle comes in to steal the kill.
The biggest threat to eagles comes when they are very young, still living in the nest. Eagles have a wide range of nest predators, including raccoons, ravens, crows, and even great horned owls.
These nest predators frequently search out eagle’s nests with young in them. They will then kill and eat the eaglets in the nest, sometimes fighting off the parent eagles or simply waiting until both of the parents are gone before attacking.
Ground predators such as alligators, large cats, and wolves may also pose a threat to any eagle that cannot fly. Sick or injured eagles on the ground are extremely vulnerable to these ground predators, who can easily kill and eat the eagles if they are unable to fly away.
Again though, eagles have few natural predators, so anything that eats an eagle is an exception to the rule.
Most of the time, adult eagles are left alone. Even eaglets, which are much more vulnerable, are rarely left unattended, so most predators attempting to kill and eat eaglets are chased away by the eaglets’ parents.
Do Lions Eat Eagles?
As noted above, many ground predators will prey on weakened or earthbound eagles if they are unable to fly away. In these cases, lions are among the predators that may eat eagles.
Under normal circumstances, lions don’t hunt eagles, but they will probably take advantage of finding an injured eagle. Lions, like most predators, are pretty unlikely to pass up an easy meal.
Mountain lions, though not technically lions, may also eat eagles.
In North America, golden eagles in particular share many of the same kinds of territory as mountain lions, and both hunt many of the same kinds of prey. But if a golden eagle is injured or otherwise compromised, it may become a mountain lion’s next meal.
Again, though, a healthy eagle would be a formidable foe for any predator, even lions and mountain lions. Check out this video to get a better idea of a golden eagle’s excellent hunting skills.
Eagles are apex predators at the top of the food chain, which means they have no natural predators. However, unattended eaglets and even weakened adult eagles may be eaten by other predators such as bears, wolves, lions, alligators, ravens, and great horned owls.