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How Much Weight Can an Eagle Carry? The Fascinating Answer!

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Eagles are among the largest of all birds, although some condors and vultures are larger. Eagles are strong and prefer live prey to dead, but there are some instances of eagles being able to carry animals as heavy as monkeys or sloths.

Generally, however, eagles will usually only carry a weight of up to 3 pounds, and that’s assuming that they have the benefit of a headwind. While hawks can carry up to the equivalent of their own body weight, most eagles, including the bald eagle, can only manage around one-third of their total body weight. Exceptions include the Harp Eagle and the Steller’s Sea Eagle, with some reports of a harpy eagle carrying around 30 pounds in weight.

Read on for more information on how much weight eagles can carry and how they compare to other birds.

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About Eagles

There are more than 60 species of eagles found across the globe. Just two species of eagle are seen in the U.S. and Canada: Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles. Although eagles are seen as predators, the bald eagle actually prefers to steal and scavenge its food and has been known to steal prey from the talons of ospreys and other birds. The Golden Eagle, on the other hand, is a true predator, hunting small mammals and occasionally taking young deer.

The Golden Eagle
Image Credit: MOHANN, Pixabay

How Much Weight Can an Eagle Carry?

The weight an eagle can manage depends on its species as well as its gender, and even prevailing wind and other conditions. Most species can carry up to 5 pounds at a time. This includes Bald Eagles.

Bald Eagles weigh approximately 12 pounds and carry a third of their body weight, or roughly 4 pounds. This is roughly similar to the weight capacity of large hawks, which are capable of carrying up to 100% of their own body weight while in flight. In ideal conditions, a mature adult might manage to carry around 8 pounds.

Factors that influence the weight an eagle can carry include the species, as well as the age of the bird. Adult birds in their prime are capable of carrying more weight than young or old birds. If the bird is able to maintain a high flying speed, it will be able to carry more weight, too.

How Do They Compare to Other Animals?

Eagles carry about a third of their bodyweight, or around 4 pounds. This is more than enough for eagles to be able to carry small mammals, fish, and some smaller birds. It is also roughly the same as hawks, which can carry up to their own body weight.

Bird Species Carrying Capacity
Harpy Eagle 30 pounds
Steller’s Sea Eagle 20 pounds
Bald Eagle 10 pounds
Red-tailed Hawk 3 pounds
Vulture 2 pounds
Pigeon 0.1 pounds

eagle, hawk, vulture and pigeon weight capacity

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What Is the Most Common Eagle?

The Golden Eagle is the most common eagle in the U.S. and in every continent in the Northern hemisphere. They have brown bodies with a golden tinge to the back and neck, as well as a white head and are easily recognizable.

What Is the Strongest Eagle?

The Harpy Eagle is the strongest known eagle species. The Harpy can weigh up to 20 pounds and has been known to lift monkeys and sloths off the ground. There are some reports of the bird carrying as much as 30 pounds while in flight.

harpy eagle in a rainforest
Image Credit: MarcusVDT, Shutterstock

Can an Eagle Carry a Dog?

Although it is very unlikely that an eagle would be able to carry an adult dog, some species of eagle do have the carrying capacity to carry small to medium dogs, and they do have the ability to lift young puppies. However, instances of this are very rare, with most adult dogs weighing more than an eagle could lift.

Can an Eagle Carry a Cat?

While harpy eagles and Steller’s Sea Eagles may be able to lift and carry adult cats, and some other species would be able to carry kittens off the ground, this is also rare. It is most likely to occur when the cat is injured or has been killed in some other way. And, even in these cases, the eagle may choose to carry part of the cat rather than the whole thing.

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Eagles are incredible birds of prey that are large, strong, and powerful. Despite having a reputation as being fearsome predators, including stories of how pets have been carried away by them, most eagles are only capable of lifting a weight of around 5 pounds, which means that they concentrate their hunting efforts on small mammals and some fish.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock, Pavlov Sergei888

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.