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Eagles are large birds of prey which are members of the bird family Accipitridae, and belong to several genera which are not necessarily closely related to each other. Most of the more than 60 species occur in Eurasia and Africa. Outside this area, just two species (the Bald and Golden Eagles) can be found in the USAmarker and Canadamarker, nine more in Central and South America, and three in Australia.


Eagles are differentiated from other birds of prey mainly by their larger size, more powerful build, and heavier head and beak. 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. Species named as eagles can range in size from the South Nicobar Serpent-eagle, at 500 grams (1.1 pounds) and 40 cm (16 in), to the 6.7-kg Steller's Sea Eagle and the 100 cm (39 in) Philippine Eagle.

Like all birds of prey, eagles have very large powerful hooked beaks for tearing flesh from their prey, strong muscular legs, and powerful talons. They also have extremely keen eyesight which enables them to spot potential prey from a very long distance. This keen eyesight is primarily contributed by their extremely large pupils which ensure minimal diffraction (scattering) of the incoming light.

Eagles build their nests, called eyries, 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. The dominant chick tends to be the female, as they are bigger than the male. The parents take no action to stop the killing.


Martial Eagle in Namibia
Thermographic image of an eagle, thermoregulating using its wings
Wedge Tailed Eagle in Australia
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. FAMILY ACCIPITRIDAE

Eagles in culture

The word

The modern English name of the bird is derived from the Latin term aquila by way of the French Aigle. The Latin aquila may derive from the word aquilus, meaning dark-colored, swarthy, or blackish,as a description of the eagle's plumage; or from Aquilo, the Latin version of Greek Boreas, or north wind.

Old English used the term Earn, related to Scandinavia's Ørn / Örn. The etymology of this word is related to Greek ornis, literally meaning "bird". In this sense, the Eagle is the Bird with a capital B.

In Britainmarker 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 as national symbols

Image:Divrigi02.jpg |Coat of arms of | SeljukiansImage:Coat_of_Arms_of_the_Russian_Federation.svg|Coat of arms of RussiaImage:Coat_of_Arms_of_Germany.svg‎|Coat of arms of Germanymarker. It dates back to the eagle as a symbol of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation (800-1806), the so called Reichsadler.Image:Herb Polski.svg|Coat of arms of Polandmarker. The symbol of an eagle appeared for the first time on the coins made during the reign of Bolesław I (992-1025), initially as the coat of arms of the Piast dynasty.Image:Wappen_Deutsches_Reich_-_Reichsadler_2.png|The Reichsadler symbol of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation and Imperial Germany (1871-1918).Image:Austria_Bundesadler.svg|Coat of arms of AustriaImage:Karnataka_emblem.png|This is the state emblem of Karnatakamarker, Indiamarker. The bird in the middle is the "Gandaberunda."Image:Byzantine eagle.JPG|Double-headed eagle emblem of the Byzantine Empire. Relief from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of ConstantinoplemarkerImage:Berg en Terblijt (Weapon).png|Coat of arms of the town of Berg en Terblijtmarker in the Netherlands, an example of the prolific use of the eagle in European heraldryImage:Coat of arms of Egypt.svg|Coat of arms of EgyptImage:Coat_of_arms_of_nigeria.png|Coat of arms of Federal Republic Of NigeriaImage:US-GreatSeal-Obverse.svg|The Great Seal of the United StatesImage:Coat of arms of Serbia small.svg|Coat of arms of SerbiaImage:Stema Mihai Viteazul.jpg|Coat of arms of the Romanian Principalities in 1600, having the Wallachian eagle on topImage:Aigle-napoleonienne-p1030180.jpg|Napoleonic eagleImage:Coat of arms of the Albanian Kingdom.png|Coat of arms of the Albanian Kingdom (1928 - 1939)Eagles have been used by many nations as a national symbol.

Historic uses:


The eagle is the symbol used to depict John the Evangelist in some Christian churches. In art, John is sometimes depicted with an eagle.

The eagle is a sacred bird in some cultures and the feathers of the eagle are central to many religious and spiritual customs, especially amongst Native Americans in the United States and First Nations in Canada, as well as among many of the peoples of Meso-America. Some Native American peoples revere eagles as sacred religious objects and the feathers and parts of Bald and Golden Eagles are often compared to the Bible and crucifix. Eagle feathers are often used in various ceremonies and are used to honor noteworthy achievements and qualities such as exceptional leadership and bravery. In the cultures of the Northwest Coast, Eagle is also a supernatural being and also the ancestor and features in the heraldic crests of important clans known as totem poles.

The Moche people of ancient Perumarker worshipped the animal and often depicted eagles in their art.

Despite modern and historic Native American practices of giving eagle feathers to non-indigenous people and also members of other tribes who have been deemed worthy, current United States eagle feather law stipulates that only individuals of certifiable Native American ancestry enrolled in a federally recognized tribe are legally authorized to obtain eagle feathers for religious or spiritual reasons. In Canada, poaching of eagle feathers for the booming U.S. market has sometimes resulted in the arrests of First Nations person for the crime.

Image:Garuda_by_Hyougushi_in_Delhi.jpg|Garuda, the Vahana of Lord VishnuImage:Garuda02.jpg|Garuda murthi in West Bengalmarker, IndiamarkerIn Hindu religion, is a lesser Hindu divinity, usually the mount (vahanam) of Vishnu. is depicted as having the golden body of a strong man with a white face, red wings, and an eagle's beak and with a crown on his head. This ancient deity was said to be massive, large enough to block out the sun.

Garuda's stature in Hindu religion can be gauged by the fact that an independent Upanishad, the , and a Purana, the Garuda Purana, is devoted to him. Various names have been attributed to - Chirada, Gaganeshvara, Kamayusha, Kashyapi, Khageshvara, Nagantaka, Sitanana, Sudhahara, Suparna, Tarkshya, Vainateya, Vishnuratha and others. The Vedas provide the earliest reference of , though by the name of Śyena, where this mighty bird is said to have brought nectar to earth from heaven. The Puranas, which came into existence much later, mention as doing the same thing, which indicates that Śyena (Sanskrit for Eagle) and are the same. One of the faces of Śrī Pañcamukha Hanuman is Mahavira . This face points towards the west. Worship of is believed to remove the effects of poisons from one's body. In Tamil Vaishnavism Garuda and Hanuman are known as "Periya Thiruvadi" and "Siriya Thiruvadi" respectively.

In the Bhagavad-Gita (Ch.10, Verse 30), in the middle of the battlefield "Kurukshetra", Krishna explaining his omnipresence, says - "Of birds, I am the son of Vinata (Garuda)" indicating the importance of Garuda.

Garuda plays an important role in Krishna Avatar in which Krishna and Satyabhama ride on Garuda to kill Narakasura. On another occasion, Lord Hari rides on Garuda to save the devotee Elephant Gajendra. It is also said that Garuda's wings when flying will chant the Vedas.

In popular culture

Songs about eagles include:
  • Eimai aitos horis ftera (I am a wingless eagle, Greek: Είμαι αϊτός χωρίς φτερά) by Manos Hatzidakis and Eftichia Papagianopoulou, originally sung by Lakis Pappas
  • Eimai o aitos (I am the eagle, Greek: Είμαι ο αϊτός) by Mimis Plessas and Dimitris Christodoulou, originally sung by Antonis Kalogiannis
  • Enan aito zografisa (I painted an eagle, Greek: Έναν αϊτό ζωγράφισα) by Nikos Mamagakis and Dinos Dimopoulos, originally sung by Giannis Poulopoulos
  • Enas aitos (An eagle, Greek: Ένας αϊτός), traditional
  • Enas aitos gremistike (An eagle feel down, Greek: Ένας αϊτός γκρεμίστηκε) by Antonis Repanis and Eftichia Papagianopoulou, originally sung by Stratos Dionysiou
  • Enas etoras aitos (An eagle-love, Greek: Ένας έρωτας αϊτός) by Minos Matsas and Akos Daskalopoulos, sung by George Dalaras
  • Fly Like an Eagle by Steve Miller from the album Fly Like an Eagle
  • O mavros aitos (The black eagle, Greek: Ο μαύρος αϊτός) by Giorgos Petsilas and Nikos Gatsos, oroginally sung by Nana Mouskouri
  • Pare me aite (Take me eagle, Greek: Πάρε με αϊτέ) by Vangelis Germanos
  • On Eagles' Wings is a sacred song by Michael Joncas


  1. del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A. & Sargatal, J. (editors). (1994). Handbook of the Birds of the World Volume 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions. ISBN 8487334156
  2. Berrin, Katherine & Larco Museum. The Spirit of Ancient Peru:Treasures from the Museo Arqueológico Rafael Larco Herrera. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1997.

Further reading

  • Bruguier, Leonard. A Warrior's Eagle Feather
  • Collinson, Martin. Splitting headaches? Recent taxonomic changes affecting the British and Western Palaearctic lists British Birds vol 99 (June 2006), 306–323

External links

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