Eagles are predatory opportunists, and since they share the same worldwide reach as foxes, it is no surprise that those foxes sometimes become dinner for hungry eagles!
We are going to examine this predator-prey relationship and answer questions such as –
- How does an eagle kill prey?
- How much can eagles eat?
- How much can eagles carry?
- Is an eagle capable of carrying a fox?
- Do eagles and foxes ever run into each other?
There are sixty-eight species of eagle worldwide, and everyone is carnivorous. These meat-eating raptors live on every continent except Antarctica and often nest in old trees, dead trees, tall rocks, and even on cliffs.
Eagles are more likely to choose one of these nest locations if it is located along rivers, close to coastlines, or near large lakes. Living near water helps to provide access to fish and coastal wildlife like rodents regularly.
There are forty-five species of fox worldwide, but scientists only consider twelve of those species to be “true foxes” or members of the genus Vulpes. Foxes live on every continent except Antarctica.
Foxes den in hollowed-out trees and logs, inside caves, amid rocks, or even in burrows left by other animals. A fox’s den usually has multiple entrances and exits to provide an escape in times of danger.
What Do Eagles Eat?
Eagles are opportunistic eaters and eat a wide range of small mammals, birds, and fish. Some of the most common eagle prey items include:
- Prairie dogs
- Ground squirrels
- Young antelope
How Does An Eagle Kill Its Prey?
The eagle has three forward-facing and one backward-facing talon and
uses these talons to grab and kill prey. Using leg muscles, the eagle applies as much as four hundred pounds per square inch per talon. The eagle uses its front paws to strike the prey’s skull and then uses the rear-facing claw to grip its prey as it lifts and carries it away.
How Much Can An Eagle Eat?
The amount an eagle can eat depends on the type of eagle and the size of its stomach. The general rule of thumb is that an eagle can hold as much as one-third of its body weight worth of food at one time.
Eagles can store food in their crop because they do not always have access to food. An eagle’s crop is in the esophagus and holds food that the eagle has already ingested but has not yet digested. The crop holds as much as two pounds of food at one time.
When the eagle is ready to eat, it “drops” the crop and allows food to move out of the crop and into the digestive tract. The stomach is only as large as a walnut, so only so much food can pass down to the stomach at once.
How Much Can An Eagle Carry?
Some people have even seen golden eagles attack animals as large as five hundred pounds, but just because they can attack an animal this large does not mean they can carry it! An eagle is only capable of carrying a third of its body weight.
To date, the heaviest prey item carried by an eagle was a fifteen-pound mule deer fawn – the eagle in question? An American bald eagle.
Just how much can an eagle carry? The average eagle can lift anything weighing five and six pounds off the ground if taken from the flat earth.
Lifting Versus Carrying
It is necessary to distinguish between lifting and carrying. An eagle may be able to lift something that weighs thirty pounds, but it probably cannot carry something that heavy for any length of time.
When eagles pick up too heavy prey, they often drag it to a place of safety where they can break it into smaller pieces to make it more manageable to carry back to the nest.
How Much Does a Fox Weigh?
The Fennec fox is the smallest fox species and weighs between one and a half to three and a half pounds. The red fox is the largest fox species and weighs between five and thirty-one pounds.
Could An Eagle Carry a Fox?
Theoretically, an eagle could carry a fox, depending on the eagle and the type of fox.
The eagles capable of lifting the heaviest prey items are the Harpy eagle, Philippine eagle, Crowned eagle, and the Bald eagle.
The Harpy eagle can carry prey as heavy as twenty pounds!
The Philippine eagle has even had prey items up to thirty-one pounds in its nest.
The Crowned eagle is said to carry prey items that exceed their weight – there have even been remains of prey as large as sixty-six pounds found in the Crowned eagle’s nest!
The Bald eagle can carry prey as heavy as fifteen pounds!
The smallest species of eagle is the South Nicobar serpent eagle weighing just one pound. This small eagle could not carry a fox, but that does not mean it would not eat one if it were available. For the most part, however, the South Nicobar eagle feeds on birds, reptiles, and rodents.
Do Eagles and Foxes Cross Paths?
Another thing to consider when asking whether eagles eat foxes is whether eagles and foxes ever cross paths.
Eagles are diurnal creatures – they are active during the day. Most fox species, however, are crepuscular or nocturnal. With such different circadian rhythms, how likely is it that an eagle would spot a fox?
Like eagles, foxes are opportunists, so while they may not be diurnal, they will venture out in the daytime for the promise of food. Unfortunately, even the sneakiest fox can have trouble outrunning the watchful eyes of an eagle!
Conclusion / Summary
Of the sixty-eight eagle species around the world, everyone is carnivorous. Given the opportunity, most would not hesitate to eat a fox, whether it is already deceased or whether they dispatch the fox themselves.