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What do eagles eat?

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Eagles are powerful and fierce birds of prey. These efficient predators are carnivores that feed on small mammals, fish, insects and more.

Eagles are skilled hunters and can hunt down anything smaller than them with their sharp talons and strong beaks.

So, what do hawks eat? Let's take an in-depth look at their typical diet, including what their young eat, how they hunt, and their predators.

What do eagles eat?

what hawks eat
Eagles eat small mammals, fish, insects, etc.

© AZ-Animals.com

Eagles eat small mammals such as mice, rats, squirrels, rabbits, gophers, and chipmunks. They also eat fish, insects, lizards, frogs and snakes.

Eagles will eat anything smaller than themselves and are strictly carnivorous. They can easily spot prey with their keen eyesight and high soaring ability.

Birds of prey usually get a bad rap for taking off with chickens and small pets, but that's rare.

In "The Food Habits of the Common Eagle," published by the United States Department of Agriculture , WL McAtee found that hawks help eliminate pests and other crop nuisances on farms.

Essentially, these Raptors do more good than harm.

The Complete List of 15 Foods Eagles Eat

Red tailed hawk with garter snake in its mouth
Eagles eat mice, snakes, squirrels, lizards and frogs

©iStock.com/Holcy

Check out this list of the most common foods hawks eat:

  • mouse
  • mouse
  • squirrel
  • rabbit
  • Gophers
  • shepherd dog
  • bird eggs
  • Vole
  • chipmunk
  • snake
  • lizard
  • frog
  • sea turtle
  • salamander
  • various insects

Although uncommon, hawks sometimes prey on other small birds such as pigeons, blackbirds, and starlings. They might even take off with baby foxes or lambs if the opportunity presents itself.

Eagles love to eat small mammals like mice, but they are quick-witted and love anything they grab with their talons.

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These carnivores often hunt for their food, but also eat carrion (animal carcasses).

In addition to its penchant for meat, hawks don't hesitate to take advantage of the protein-packed delicacy with six legs and a pair of wings. Insects that may serve as convenient snacks include crickets, dragonflies, grasshoppers, and moths. Even fatty larvae do just fine.

What do the different types of eagles eat?

Adult Cooper's hawk perched on a weathered backyard fence next to a bare tree
Cooper's Hawks hang out at bird feeders and hunt songbirds

©Lilly P. Green/Shutterstock.com

There are more than 20,000 species of hawks in the world, many of which eat a variety of foods.

Red-tailed hawks love mammals such as ground squirrels, rabbits, and mice, while pointed and cooper's hawks love to hang out at bird feeders and hunt songbirds.

Northern goshawks are known to be defensive hawks, defending themselves when threatened. They eat a wide variety of prey, including mammals, insects, birds, and reptiles.

Red-shouldered hawks are forest dwellers that feed on amphibians, snakes and lizards.

How Much Do Eagles Eat?

How much these raptors eat depends largely on their body weight and the availability of their prey. Some eagles will eat up to eight small animals per day, while others will eat larger animals once a day.

Eagles use a lot of energy and need to eat 12-15% of their body weight every day. Young, developing birds need to eat more than adults. And women tend to be bigger and consume more than men.
The bigger the eagle, the more it eats at each meal. A red-tailed hawk can eat a large rabbit, but it may take up to two days before its next meal.

What do eaglets eat?

Young Ferruginous hawk chicks in their nest, stained with blood from their last meal.
Young eagles eat lizards, insects, fish and crustaceans

© Brenda Carson/Shutterstock.com

Baby eagles, also known as eyas, are carnivores like their parents and must eat similar foods. Young eagles eat lizards, fish, crustaceans and insects.

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Adult female eagles lay one to five eggs each spring (April or May). The eggs hatch after about six weeks, and the chicks are completely dependent on their parents for food for up to two months after leaving the nest.

The eyes feed every one to three days, sometimes multiple times a day, depending on the size of the prey.

Who competes with the eagle for food?

Birds of prey attack each other and will fight for food

©iStock.com/Alla Orlova

Eagles often compete with each other for food. There are many different species of hawks, each of which can compete with the other for prey and nesting sites.

The eagle's other direct competitors include hawks, owls, ospreys, and falcons. Any bird of prey can compete with a hawk for food.

Who wins this battle depends on the size and overall health of the bird.

Birds of prey are aggressive towards other birds and will fight to protect their food and young. Even smaller birds can injure hawks in self-defense.

How do eagles hunt?

Eagles circle and soar through the air, watching the ground below for signs of moving prey. They have excellent eyesight and can clearly spot a small mouse from over 100 feet away.

The birds typically hunt at dusk and dawn and use other techniques to track their meals. Some species scream to make their prey flee. When the animal gets tired, the eagle swoops down and grabs it in its talons.

The claws are sharp and curved, perfect for piercing skin and other hard surfaces. Their beaks are sharp hooks that can easily tear through flesh and bone.

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Eagles are skilled, fierce hunters with excellent instincts and clever maneuvers. They also hone these skills with practice. These bird hunters have been observed to enhance these responses with the aid of corn cobs and even pine cones. Take the object in the air, drop it, and swoop down to catch it.

Do the Eagles have natural enemies?

Snakes are notorious for climbing trees, stealing eggs and hatching young

© Rodolfo Ayala Plata/Shutterstock.com

Large eagles dominate the skies and attack smaller species when threatened or assert dominance. Iron hawks are the largest hawk species in North America and can easily take down smaller birds such as Cooper's hawks.

While hawks pose a threat to each other, more predators await. Eagles and hawks will fight to maintain their dominance. These two also share a common food interest, for which they compete.

Owls and hawks threaten each other because they eat similar foods and travel to the same nesting sites. They will fight for food and to protect their territory.

Snakes do not usually attack adult eagles, but they will climb trees and enter unattended nests. Notorious for stealing eggs and hatching young, snakes can easily prey on unarmed critters.

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featured image

Red tailed hawk with garter snake in its mouth
A red-tailed hawk captures an unlucky garter snake

© iStock.com/Holcy


about the author


Niccoy is a professional writer and content creator focusing on nature, wildlife, food and travel. She graduated from Florida State University with a business degree before realizing that writing was her true passion. She lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and loves hiking, reading and cooking!

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