Of all the creatures out in the wild, we think of eagles as being these majestic soaring creatures that inspire awe and pride.
The truth is though, eagles are predators at heart and it should never be taken lightly when one is around.
To help you understand just how powerful and dangerous eagles can be, we’ll be going over some of the facts and details about eagles, their life and habits as well as the danger they pose to humans and whether or not they are prone to attack humans or eat children.
How Dangerous Are Eagles to Humans?
Typically speaking, eagles are not dangerous to humans. They are only dangerous to humans who encroach on their nests or territory. While they are carnivorous animals by nature, their habitat makes them shy away from populated areas most other time, preferring high altitudes instead.
Most of us know that eagles are a predatory type of bird that is found in most places around the world. What you may not know is that outside of parts of Europe and Asia, there aren’t very many species found elsewhere.
In fact, of the 60 or so species, there are only 2 species that inhabit the United States and Canada, the Bald Eagle and the Golden Eagle, with two others making their way towards some of the American territories in part of the year.
The Bald Eagle
The Bald Eagle is the symbol of America and also happens to be the only eagle species that is exclusively native to the United States. While it is on the endangered species list, conservation efforts have seen a return of the species to the wild.
The Bald Eagle is actually a sub species of sea eagle, that being eagles that inhabit areas around lakes and rivers where they nest and hunt for food.
Among their particular subspecies, the male Bald Eagle is the smaller of the two, measuring around 3 feet in length (head to tail), with a wingspan that is roughly 6 ½ feet.
This makes them fairly light but excellent flyers that can cover long distances if necessary. The females are larger at 3 ½ to 4 feet in length with a roughly 8 foot wingspan.
Bald Eagles are carnivores that mostly survive on a diet of fish. They are fast enough to catch fish out of moving water such as streams and are even smart enough to follow other birds to the fish. They are even known to steal from other birds thanks to their imposing size and speed. Bald Eagles also eat other birds, snakes, turtles, crabs, and small mammals. They are also known to eat the carcasses of dead animals.
As far as habitat, Bald Eagles build nests out of twigs and other materials in the tops of tall trees or rock formations that are within reach of water. They typically lay 2-3 eggs at a time and the eggs, once hatched, will live in the nest for usually around 5 years before leaving.
Once endangered, the Bald Eagle is now protected and thanks to conservation efforts their numbers are on the rise.
The Golden Eagle
This smaller dark brown cousin of the Bald Eagle is the national bird of Mexico. It ranges between Mexico and the Pacific Coast of the United States, up to Newfoundland in Canada, with pockets found elsewhere in mountain ranges across North America.
They range from 2 ½ to 3 ⅓ feet tall with a wingspan that can reach nearly 8 feet. There is not as much difference between the males and females of this species compared to the Bald Eagle, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in predatory factors.
The Golden Eagle has an impressive flight speed of around 80 miles per hour, meaning it can easily outpace any ground based animal.
While they are known to travel at high altitudes and make their homes in mountains, they are far ranging eagles that can travel long distances quickly without rest.
Their diet consists mostly of small mammals like prairie dogs, rabbits and squirrels, though like other birds they are known to eat fish, crab and other prey.
They will even eat other birds and carcasses. Unlike other birds, they hunt primarily in pairs, with even unattached males sometimes forming partnerships in order to find and gather food.
They nest in high altitudes and lay anywhere from one to four eggs at a time. The hatchlings can stay 2-3 years before leaving the nest, though they may stay even longer.
Much like the Bald Eagle, the Golden Eagle is protected from hunting due to the decline in numbers. However, due to the vicious predatory nature of these eagles, which have been known to eat lambs from farmer’s fields, special permission is sometimes given to hunt them.
What Makes Eagles Dangerous?
The primary reason that eagles are dangerous is because they are fiercely territorial of their nest and will become aggressive if someone approaches too close. It is advised to stay at least 300 feet away from an eagle’s nest at all times.
Besides their fierce protective nature, they possess razor sharp talons and beaks and they can quickly outpace any human being on the ground.
Do Eagles Attack or Eat Humans?
Eagles have been known to attack humans on occasion, most often in defense of their nests or territory. However, in terms of hunting or feeding behavior, humans are not considered part of the diet for eagles and there is no recorded information of eagles hunting humans or eating human remains, though it is possible as they will eat carrion.
Has An Eagle Ever Carried Off or Killed a Child?
Though this is a popular topic of myth, there is no documented record of an eagle every carrying off or killing a child. While an eagle is capable of carrying some small mammals, their weight capacity is typically a few pounds, even for the largest eagles. This would take it nearly impossible for an eagle to carry off a child.
There have been instances of eagles attacking a child though…
How Badly Can a Human Be Injured By An Eagle?
If a human is attacked by an eagle the potential from injuries can range from very minor to quite severe. Though there are no documented cases, the largest eagles are capable of a grip strength that can easily crush a human skull.
What is likely to occur from an eagle attack are severe lacerations due to the talons and the potential for broken bones as an eagle can easily crush an arm or leg if latched onto it.
How to Protect Yourself if an Eagle Attacks
It is extremely difficult to fight off an eagle once it has begun to attack. The safest method to protect yourself from an eagle attack is to not encroach on their territory by being vigilant. If you are attacked, the best course of action is retreat or to find a way to make yourself unreachable from the air.
Have There Been Any Recorded Eagle Attacks or Deaths?
While not common, eagle attacks do occur in forested areas where they migrate to lay eggs. With the small number of attacks that have happened since eagles became protected in North America, however there isn’t a lot of data as to the frequency of these attacks. There are, however, NO confirmed reports of deaths from eagles.
As you can see, eagles are fierce predatory animals that can severely injure anyone unlucky enough to be attacked by them. The best thing to do is stay aware and try your best to avoid areas where eagles nest and you diminish the risk of potentially being attacked.