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Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Scientific classification
Kingdom Information
Domain Eukaryota
Kingdom Animalia
Subkingdom Bilateria
Branch Deuterostomia
Phylum Information
Phylum Chordata
Sub-phylum Vertebrata
Infraphylum Gnathostomata
Class Information
Superclass Tetrapoda
Class Aves
Sub-class Neornithes
Infra-class Neoaves
Order Information
Superorder Passerimorphae
Order Falconiformes
Infraorder Falconides
Family Information
Family Accipitridae
Population statistics

Eagle refers to large diurnal birds of prey from the order Falconiformes, family Accipitridae, and characterized by resemblance to vultures when in flight, but bearing fully-feathered heads and powerful talons capable of taking and killing live prey. Because of their strength and majestic appearance, eagles have been prominently displayed as heraldic symbols of war and earthly power.


Eagles are found throughout the world, from the cold waters of the Arctic north to the tropical rain forests of Africa, Asia, and South America. They are monogamous, mating for life, and using the same nest every year, which is placed in an inaccessible site (called an eyrie), such as the top of a tree or a cliff face. The clutch of three to four eggs take six to eight weeks to hatch, but when hatched the young mature slowly, putting on their adult plumage in three to four years.

Eagles are typically two to three feet long and have wingspans from six to eight feet. The smallest eagle, Ayres' Hawk-eagle, (Hieraaetus ayresii), is only 16 inches long, while the largest eagles, the Harpy (Harpia harpyja), Steller's sea-eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus), and the Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) each approach 39 inches in length and weigh close to sixteen pounds. All eagles have keen eyesight; experiments conducted on golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) have determined that they are able to discern, identify, and successfully kill an animal as small as a rabbit from a minimum distance of a quarter-mile away.

Use as symbols

Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) featured in an Aztec legend, now the current arms of Mexico

Eagles have been used as symbolds of government and imperial power since at least the time of the Babylonians. In stylized form they have been placed atop the standards of ancient Persia and Imperial Rome. A two-headed eagle was used as a coat of arms for the Byzantine Empire, than later as the standard for Czarist Russia and the Hapsburg Austrian Empire. An Aztec legend of an eagle clutching a snake while sitting on a cactus led to the founding of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, and later became the coat of arms for Mexico. The United States adopted the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) as its national emblem.

Species of eagle

Family Accipitridae

  • Subfamily Buteoninae - true eagles, sea eagles, hawk-eagles
  • Genus Aquila
Bonelli's eagle, A. fasciata
Booted eagle, A. pennata - formerly Hieraaetus pennatus
Eastern imperial eagle, A. heliaca
Golden eagle, A. chrysaetos
Greater spotted eagle, A. clanga
Gurney's eagle, A. gurneyi
Indian spotted eagle, A. hastata
Lesser spotted eagle, A. pomarina
Little eagle, A. morphnoides
Spanish imperial eagle, A. adalberti
Steppe eagle, A. nipalensis
Tawny eagle, A. rapax
Verreaux's eagle, A. verreauxii
Wahlberg's eagle, A. wahlbergi
Wedge-tailed eagle, A. audax
  • Genus Geranoaetus
Black-chested buzzard eagle, Geranoaetus melanoleucus
  • Genus Haliaeetus
African fish eagle, H. vocifer
Bald eagle, H. leucocephalus
Madagascar fish eagle, H. vociferoides
Pallas's fish eagle, H. leucoryphus
Sanford's sea eagle, H. sanfordi
Steller's sea eagle, H. pelagicus
White-bellied sea eagle, H. leucogaster
White-tailed eagle, Haliaeetus albicilla
  • Genus Harpagornis (extinct)
Haast's eagle, Harpagornis moorei
  • Genus Harpia
Harpy eagle, Harpia harpyja
  • Genus Harpyhaliatus
Crowned solitary eagle, Harpyhaliaetus coronatus
Solitary eagle, H. solitarius
  • Genus Harpyopsis
New Guinea harpy eagle, Harpyopsis novaeguineae
  • Genus Hieraaetus
African hawk eagle, H. spilogaster
Ayre's hawk eagle, Hieraaetus ayresii
Rufous-bellied eagle, H. kienerii
  • Genus Ichthyophaga
Gray-headed fish eagle, I. ichthyaetus
Lesser fish eagle, Ichthyophaga humilis
  • Genus Ictinaetus
Black eagle, Ictinaetus malayensis
  • Genus Lophaetus
Long-crested eagle, Lophaetus occipitalis
  • Genus Morphnus
Crested eagle, Morphnus guianensis
  • Genus Oroaetus
Black-and-chestnut eagle, Oroaetus isidori
  • Genus Pithecophaga
Philippine eagle, Pithecophaga jefferyi
  • Genus Polemaetus
Martial eagle, Polemaetus bellicosus
  • Genus Spizaetus
Black hawk-eagle, S. tyrannus
Black-and-white hawk-eagle, S. melanoleucus
Blyth's Hawk-eagle, S. alboniger
Cassin's Hawk-eagle, Spizaetus africanus
Changeable hawk-eagle, S. cirrhatus
Javan hawk-eagle, S. bartelsi
Mountain hawk-eagle, S. nipalensis
Ornate hawk-eagle, S. ornatus
Philippine hawk-eagle, S. philippensis
Sulawesi hawk-eagle, S. lanceolatus
Wallace's hawk-eagle, S. nanus
  • Genus Stephanoaetus
African crowned eagle, Stephanoaetus coronatus
  • Subfamily Circaetinae: snake-eagles
  • Genus Circaetus
Banded snake-eagle, C. cinerascens
  • Genus Eutriorchis
Madagascar serpent-eagle, Eutriorchis astur
Black-chested snake-eagle, C. pectoralis
Brown snake-eagle, C. cinereus
Fasciated snake-eagle, C. fasciolatus
Short-toed eagle, Circaetus gallicus
  • Genus Spilornis
Andaman serpent-eagle, S. elgini
Crested serpent-eagle, Spilornis cheela
Mountain serpent-eagle,S. kinabaluensis
Nicobar serpent-eagle, S. minimus
Philippine serpent-eagle, S. holospilus
Sulawesi serpent-eagle, S. rufipectus
  • Genus Terathopius
Bateleur, Terathopius ecaudatus