As an avid watcher of wildlife shows, I’ve long admired those apex predators, the lion and the eagle. If like me you wondered who would win a fight and whether a lion would eat an eagle, here’s all you need to know according to the experts.
Do lions eat eagles? A lion would eat an eagle if the bird was found dead or dying. Likewise, an eagle will eat a dead or dying lion. Both lions and eagles are apex predators, carnivore, meat eaters, at the top of the food chain.
That’s the short answer to lions eating eagles, but the truth is a lot more nuanced than that.
Do lions hunt eagles?
Since hunting and killing other animals requires significant time and energy, both lions and eagles will take advantage of an available meal.
Both have been observed by wildlife experts to eat available carrion and to steal food from other, smaller predators.
Handy Hint: I recently explored whether an eagle can pick up a goat, and here’s what I discovered.
However, neither is a preferred food for the other.
That means you will not see lions hunting eagles. It simply isn’t worth their time an energy when they are far easier prey to catch and kill.
Both eagles and lions have fighting abilities that make engaging in a fight with the other a bad idea. So, if lions and eagles don’t normally eat each other, what do they eat?
What do lions eat if not eagles?
According to the World Atlas, lions (panthera leo) range throughout the African continent. Historically, there were also lions in Asia but there are no lions outside of zoos and sanctuaries in Asia currently.
All varieties of lion are apex predators, top carnivores in their region. They prefer to live in the grasslands where they can see their prey from a distance, but can also be found in forests and bush. Lions see well in the dark, and prefer to hunt during at night.
Lions differ from other large cats, as they are social animals that live and hunt in groups, called a pride, consisting of a senior male and a few other adult males, many females, and their young children. Working as a group, lions can hunt larger animals, like antelope, zebras, and wildebeests.
Lions can kill animals as large as hippopotamuses, giraffes, and elephants, but usually only if the animal is young or quite elderly as those individuals are more vulnerable. Lions will also eat small mammals, like rodents. Lions are opportunistic, readily eating any meat available, and often steal a kill from hyenas, wild dogs, or cheetahs.
What do African eagles eat?
Like lions, eagles in Africa are top predators. Their diet varies, depending on the species. A common eagle in Africa is the African fish eagle, found along rivers and lakes south of the Sahara. Obviously, its main food is fish.
The martial eagle is large enough to kill small antelopes and jackals. One of the largest eagles, Verreaux’s eagle, or the golden eagle, reaches up to 81 cms (31 inches) in length, and mainly eats hyraxes and rodents.
All eagles share some common traits. They have keen eyesight, 8 strong talons, and a hooked beak. These characteristics work together, allowing eagles to hunt efficiently.
Although eagles can be seen nesting directly on the ground, most eagles nest in the tops of tall trees and in rocky crevices, depending on available nesting site. Eagles prefer to be able to see a long distance from their nest and perches, as they can spot prey readily.
Fights between eagles and lions
Conflicts between lions and eagles are rare. Normally, they are searching for different prey, so are not competing for food. When conflict does arise, it is normally over defense of the young. Eagles have been observed attacking and killing unattended lion cubs.
Likewise, lions do attack unattended chicks when the nest is assessible. In either case, if the adults are close enough to defend their young, they will fight. These battles rarely result in major injuries for the adults as the intruders normally retreat.
Do mountain lions eat eagles?
Mountain lions will not eat Golden or Bald eagles unless they find the birds vulnerable on the ground. While they prefer deer, they will eat smaller animals and even insects when hungry.
Mountain lions also eat vegetation. Eagles are not preferred food for mountain lions because they tend to be inaccessible in high nests and have the ability to fight back.
A mountain lion would need to be quite hungry to hunt and attempt to kill and eat an eagle.
The mountain lion, also known as the puma, panther, or cougar, is a large feline predator, similar to lions or tigers. They range in color from tawny brown to grey. Adult males can be up to 8 feet long head to tail, and weigh up to 150 lbs.
Mountain lions range throughout the Americas, from deserts to mountains to forests, the largest range of any living mammal. Mountain lions live in the same territory as both bald eagles and golden eagles, so encounters between these top predators do occur.
The preferred food of a mountain lion is deer. They are a solitary hunter, unlike African lions. They hunt by stealth, often at night, moving close to their prey undetected before pouncing from behind and breaking the spinal cord with their powerful jaws.
Do tigers eat eagles?
The tiger is the largest of the cat family, and among the most ferocious. The largest tiger, the Siberian, can be as much as 13 feet long and weight 660 lbs. Tigers can be found from the far reaches of Siberia to Southeast Asia, as far south as the island of Sumatra.
Tigers range across a wide range of environments from high mountains to forests, shorelines to swamplands. Grasslands and lightly forested grasslands support the largest populations as prey is most available.
Tigers prefer to eat larger prey animals, like wild pigs or deer. They rarely attack larger prey like water buffalo or elephants as tigers hunt alone. Tigers will eat carrion, as they also save their kill for a second meal.
A tiger will steal carrion from another predator, if possible. Eagles are not a good prey animal for the tiger. First, they are too strong and able to fight back.
Second, they are not large enough to provide 2 meals.
Third, although species of eagles live in tiger territory, they tend to perch and nest high in trees, when tigers would struggle to reach them undetected. Overall, the incidence of tigers eating eagle is rare.
Are lions an endangered species?
All species of lions are threatened, with some nearly or completely extinct. Asian lions were hunted out of existence. Populations of African lions are declining. Several factors are contributing to these population declines.
Habitat loss reduces the populations of prey. Humans increasingly inhabit areas that were formerly lion habitat, leading to fragmentation of tiger territory. The major factor in in population loss, though, is the increase in trophy hunting.
Since trophy lions tend to be the dominant male lion of the pride, the structure of the pride is disrupted. Other males will move in to try to take over the pride, often killing all the cubs of the prior dominant lion.
So, the killing of the dominant male results in the deaths of several other pride members. More will have to be done to stop these threats if lions are to survive.
To conclude, yes, lions do eat eagles, but only in specific circumstances. For example, if a lion was to come across an injured eagle on the ground which was weak enough to not resist, the lion might take it as an easy option.
However, you won’t see lions hunting eagles, killing, then eating them. That’s far too tricky and a huge waste of time for them.