Do Eagles Eat Dead Animals?

Written by: Annemarie Dutton
Last updated on:

Eagles are some of the world’s most vicious bird predators. Both animals and humans revere them.  Eagles’ diets vary depending on their environment.

This article will answer the question: “Do eagles eat dead animals?” 

Do Eagles Eat Dead Animals?

Despite their reputation as fearsome predators, some eagles (such as the bald eagle) sometimes scavenge dead animal materials or steal kills from other predators.

Eagles are carnivores that are considered apex predators in their ecosystems. 

Eagles will eat both live and dead animals as carrions. They either hunt for their meat or scavenge and steal from other predators. Eagles will not also shy away from eating carrions which are dead animals.

Eagles are apex predators meaning they are at the top of the food chain in their ecosystems. They are some of the most vicious hunters; their bodies – especially beaks, claws, talons, and wings – are adapted to give them an advantage over their prey.

Do Eagles Eat Carcasses?

In their first year and until they become proficient hunters, eagles often feed on dead animals, called carrion. Their hunting skills gradually develop as they grow up.

Carrion (dead and rotting flesh) is a source of food for bald eagles, which makes some people dislike them. A seal or deer carcass would be an unusual food source for scavengers like the bald eagle.

Do Eagles Eat Roadkill?

Although eagles eat roadkill, they take most of it in winter when dead animals are frozen and aren’t likely to be covered with maggots, so they don’t have the featherless heads of vultures.

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Will Eagles Eat a Dead Deer?

Eagles get a fair percentage of their food from carrion. They have no issues feasting on a dead deer, raccoon, owl, or whatever else they may find rotting along a road or lakeside. This often causes problems in that cars can easily hit these roadside eagles.

Will Bald Eagles Eat Dead Fish?

Fish is the main component of a bald eagle’s diet, accounting for about 70% to 90%. Fish are generally scavenged by the birds, although they can also catch live fish. 

Occasionally, they catch a heron, crow, grouse, duck, gull, or small mammal, especially if fish are unavailable.

Do Eagles Eat the Bones of Their Prey?

Yes, and the bones provide essential nutrients. The eagle’s digestive system acids are strong enough to dissolve bones and entirely digest them.

What Do Baby Eagles Eat?

Their parents and environment dictate the diet of baby eagles. Baby eagles will eat the hunt of their parents, including live prey or carrion. However, the parent eagle will have torn the meat into small chunks that make it easy for the baby eagle to eat.

Baby eagles can eat as many times as eight times a day.

What Happens with Dead Baby Eagles?

When the baby of an eagle dies, the eagle will generally eat it.  Eagles can devour their young within minutes.

Do Eagles Drink Water?

Like all other animals, eagles need fresh and clean water.  They can get water from their prey, but they will also need to physically drink water at times.

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What Makes Eagles Vicious Predators?

Eyesight

Eagles cannot see at night, but they have some of the best eyesight in the animal kingdom during the day.

This is a feature that comes in handy, given that they also fly very high in the sky.  Their eyesight helps them locate prey and carrion as small as a rabbit, or fish in water, from miles away.

The eyes of an eagle occupy a considerable space in its head. 

For an animal with a small head, an eagle’s eye is as big as a human’s eye and 4-8 times stronger than that of average human beings.

An eagle’s eye can act as both a binocular and monocular, which means they can see independently. The two focal points allow the eagle to see forward and sideways at about 45 degrees.

They can spot prey that is as far as 3.2 kilometers.

Sharp Beaks

Like all birds of prey, eagles have a strong curved beak with sharp edges that help them to tear through the flesh of either live or dead animals.

The eagle’s beak is strong enough to tear through the fur and skin of its prey, which comes in handy when tearing the flesh into small pieces for easy swallowing and easy digestion.

Since eagles do not have sweat glands, after a hunting flight (especially when it is excessively hot) they will open their mouth wide and stick their tongue out while extending their wings simultaneously.

Talons

Eagles do not have hands to hold on to their prey. In their place, they have very strong structures called talons. Three talons face forward, one facing backward, known as a hallux.

Hallux makes it easy for eagles to grip onto their prey firmly. The grip of the bald eagle is even stronger than the grip of a human hand.

The Digestion of an Eagle

The digestion of an eagle is also one of the most efficient among birds. The food of an eagle goes through different stages in its digestion to maximize the extraction of nutrients.

Eagles use their beaks to tear flesh into small pieces – these small pieces of meat are then moved to the crop. The crop helps store the meat temporarily.

The crop releases food in small portions towards the stomach. The first part of the stomach is known as the proventriculus. In this section, enzymes break down the food, and the food proceeds to the gizzard for further digestion.

From the gizzard, food is absorbed in the small intestine.

Since raw food is stored in the crop, eagles can go for as long as 150 days without food. During this time, they will be using food stored in the crop.

This helps them during winter and when they are sitting on their eggs.

Final Thoughts

While eagles are vicious hunters of live prey, they do not shy away from stealing other predators’ catches and even eat carrion.  Some eagles even go so far as to eat their young.

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