WHAT IS THE STRONGEST RAPTOR?
Eagles are some of the world’s top hunters, and are commonly known as the most fierce of all birds of prey. They are among the most efficient warm-blooded predators, and will eat anything from insects to young deer! However, there has long been debate over which bird of prey is the most powerful. There is a difference between the strongest raptor, meaning it can lift the largest prey, and the deadliest raptor, meaning it can kill the largest prey.
Although condors are the largest raptors by far (the Andean condor weighs up to 33 pounds and measures 4.3 feet, with a wingspan of 10 and a half feet), condors are vulture-like scavengers, feeding on carrion. Thus, they cannot be nominated as strongest raptor. In this article, I will try to present the debate in the best way possible, using recorded information to decide.
The raptor that can carry the largest prey is the Harpy Eagle of the Amazon Rainforest. Harpies routinely carry off prey larger than themselves, such as monkeys, sloths, and anteaters. Their prey can weigh over 20 pounds, and their talons are longer than a grizzly’s.
Harpies have a relatively short wingspan, so they can maneuver around trees in the dense rainforest to snatch monkeys from the tree canopy. While the Harpy may top the charts in strength, it is not necessarily the most deadly. Sadly, the Harpy Eagle is endangered and is rarely seen, because of deforestation of the Amazon and surrounding jungles.
The raptor that hunts the largest prey is the Golden Eagle. The larger prey taken by the Golden Eagle is not carried off, as they are much too large for an eagle to handle, but eaten on the spot.
Golden Eagles primarily eat rabbits, marmots, and squirrels. However, they have occasionally been observed hunting prey as large as cranes, young reindeer, goats, sheep, and full-grown deer, as well as aggressive predators such as coyotes, bobcats, and badgers.
There have been photographs of Golden Eagles bringing down deer, and one video shows an eagle lifting a goat off a cliff and dropping it. They are also known to hunt in pairs, an uncommon trait in eagles, making their hunts far more successful. Most impressive, however, are their attacks on cattle.
They have been recorded killing calves weighing up to 251 pounds, the record size of any bird’s prey. Unfortunately, this became the Golden Eagle’s undoing, as ranchers shot them for their livestock’s safety. Although for a time their numbers declined, the Golden Eagle is now protected by law, and they have recovered to a stable population.
Although other eagles cannot reach the power credited to the Harpy and Golden Eagles, a few are known for their impressive traits. At 21 pounds, the Steller’s Sea-Eagle is the largest and heaviest eagle, with a massive bill designed to tear fish. They are nearly as powerful as the Harpy, although they are usually discredited because they are fish-eaters.
The Bald Eagle is known for its grip, which is the strongest of any raptor. They have a talon grip of about 823 psi — dwarfing the average human’s grip of 60 psi. This kind of strength could snap a human arm!
Notably, the extinct Haast’s Eagle of New Zealand was the largest and strongest eagle to ever live. They may have weighed up to 36 pounds and hunted the moa — an extinct flightless bird that could have weighed 510 pounds! Because of the Haast’s Eagle, perhaps this could be instead called the debate over which living raptor is strongest.
In conclusion, there are really two winners of the title “strongest raptor.” The Harpy Eagle can carry the biggest prey, and the Golden Eagle can bring down the biggest. Comparing the two is like comparing a leopard and a lion: the leopard will take smaller prey, but carry it up into a tree to eat.
The lion, however, may bring down much larger game than the leopard. Each one has certain strengths and unique advantages over its prey, making it challenging to compare them.
There is no way to know everything about the hunting habits of eagles, but the more we learn about these birds, the more amazing I find them. I think the decision is up to the reader: which eagle do you think is the most powerful?
By Grayson Sasser