Eagles are large birds of prey which inhabit mainly the Old World, with only two species (the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle) found in North America north of Mexico, a few in Middle and South America, two (the White-bellied Sea Eagle and Wedge-tailed Eagle) in Australia, and the Philippine Eagle in the Philippines. They are members of the bird order Falconiformes (or Accipitriformes, according to alternative classification schemes), family Accipitridae, and belong to several genera which are not necessarily closely related to each other in any sort of way.
Eagles are differentiated from other broad-winged birds of prey
mainly by their larger size, more powerful build, and heavier head
and bill. Even the smallest eagles, like the Booted Eagle (which is
comparable in size to a Common Buzzard or Red-tailed Hawk), have
relatively longer and more evenly broad wings, and more direct,
faster flight. Most eagles are larger than any other raptors apart
from the vultures.
Like all birds of prey, eagles have very large powerful hooked beaks for tearing flesh from their prey, strong legs, and powerful talons. They also have extremely keen eyesight to enable them to spot potential prey from a very long distance. This keen eyesight is primarily contributed by their extremely large pupils which cause minimal diffraction (scattering) of the incoming light.
In Britain before 1678, Eagle referred specifically to the Golden Eagle, the other native species, the White-tailed Eagle, being known as the Erne. The modern name "Golden Eagle" for Aquila chrysaetos was introduced by the naturalist John Ray.
Eagles build their nests, which are sometimes called eyries (mostly in Australia) in tall trees or on high cliffs. Many species lay two eggs, but the older, larger chick frequently kills its younger sibling once it has hatched.
Eagles are sometimes used in falconry. They appear prominently in myth and literature. In the Old World, such references are commonly to the Golden Eagle (or possibly closely related species found in warmer climates).
Major new research into eagle taxonomy suggests that the important genera Aquila and Hieraaetus are not composed of nearest relatives, and it is likely that a reclassification of these genera will soon take place, with some species being moved to Lophaetus or Ictinaetus.
This Eagle Page is Copyright The Animal Web Guide © 2004 - 2009 Chuck Ayoub