Eagles are some of the largest birds of prey around – second only to vultures in terms of size – and are the ultimate apex predator of the avian (bird) kingdom. Feared by animals on land, sea, and even in the skies, eagles have developed a reputation for being one of the most lethal – and sometimes downright vicious – of wildlife species.
When most people think of eagles, they probably think of large fierce-looking birds with sharp elongated claws tearing apart some poor unfortunate rodent – and, unlike other wild animal stereotypes – it's actually pretty accurate. Eagles roam the skies high above most everything else and use their excellent vision to spot unassuming prey on the ground (or maybe in water – some species like to go fishing too).
Speaking of species, there are roughly sixty recognized eagle species (collectively known as the Accipitridae family) world-wide and they can be found on all the continents except Antarctica. The vast majority of them come from Europe, Asia, and Africa - but their worldwide presence has landed them on the coat of arms of many countries across the globe including Mexico in Central America, Egypt in Africa, and Germany, Poland, and Austria in Europe.
Throughout the rest of this book, we'll learn all kinds of interesting facts about some of the more popular eagle species and we'll explore their habitats, diets, lifestyle, mating, and more.
We already mentioned in our introduction that at least one or more of the sixty or so known eagle species can be found on every continent except Antarctica. In spite of countless variations in the different species and the areas in which they live, there are some characteristics of their “living arrangements” that are shared across all the different eagle subspecies world-wide.
American Bald Eagle on Its Perch
Most of us are familiar with seeing eagles soaring across the sky – and maybe you've even seen one of them swoop down from above on some poor unsuspecting prey – but have you ever wondered where they live? Like many birds, eagles have nests, or perches, where they live, raise their young, and spend most of their time when not out hunting. Still, most people have never actually seen an eagle's nest – let alone one with anything in it – so you would be completely right to wonder where you could possibly find one.
Fortunately for the eagle, it makes its nest high above everything else that would ever go looking for it. Unlike most birds that make their nests on regular tree branches, eagles prefer to perch high up in the mountains and at the edges of the tallest cliffs they can find. They do, occasionally, perch in trees as well – but only in the tallest of trees that provide a maximum height advantage against potential threats (and prey) and only when sufficiently high alternatives are not readily available.
From its high perch, the eagle can have a bird's eye view of its surroundings – literally – even when at rest in its nest. They also have very good eyesight and this comes in very handy for keeping an eye out for a potential meal (like a mouse on the ground) or any potential threat. We can see that eagles are well adapted to life in the skies and their choice of home is perfectly suited to their position as apex predators and masters of their airborne domain.
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