In ornithology, the term “bird of prey” is described as any kind of bird, which own strong talons, keen sense of vision and strong curved beak, which has the capacity to tear flesh. It is mainly because of these fearsome characteristics why so many people find birds of prey one of the most terrifying creatures on Earth but there in denying to fact that these large raptors are also fascinating and majestic at the same time. There are several different criteria that are used to determine these birds´ sizes such as their total length, wingspan or weight, which actually makes it quite difficult to define the largest birds of prey. To raise awareness about these amazing birds, we decided to compile a list with some of the largest, heaviest, mightiest and most feared raptors in the world. From giant condors and scary vultures to the iconic bald eagle, here are 25 Largest Birds Of Prey That Are Pretty Awesome (While Kind Of Scary).
Found in the Andes Mountains and adjacent Pacific Coasts of South America, the Andean condor is the largest flying bird in the world by combined measurement of weight and wingspan. It has a wingspan of up to 3.3 m (10 ft 10 in), the fifth longest in any bird (exceeded only by the wingspans of two albatross species and two pelican species). Considered near threatened, the Andean condor is also one of the world’s longest-living birds, with a lifespan of over 70 years.
Also known as the African crowned eagle or the crowned hawk-eagle, the crowned eagle is a large bird of prey found in sub-Saharan and Southern Africa. Armed with unusually large talons and very strong hind legs, the crowned eagle is considered Africa’s most powerful eagle when measured in terms of the weight of its prey items. It often preys on mammals such as bushbucks that might weigh up to 30 kg (66 lb).
Also known as bunjil or the eaglehawk, the wedged-tailed eagle is the largest bird of prey in Australia and one of the largest raptors in the world. Capable of soaring for long hours without a single wing beat, the wedged-tailed eagle has a wingspan up to 2.84 m (9 ft 4 in) and a length of up to 1.06 m (3 ft 6 in). It has long, fairly broad wings, fully feathered legs, and an unmistakable wedge-shaped tail (hence the name).
The Himalayan vulture is a huge Old World vulture closely related to the European griffon vulture. One of the largest vultures and true raptors, this species is found mainly in the higher regions of the Himalayas, the Pamirs, Kazakhstan and on the Tibetan Plateau with northwestern limits of the breeding range being in Afghanistan and southern limits in Bhutan.
One of the best-known and most widely-distributed birds of prey in the Northern Hemisphere, the golden eagle is a huge raptor reaching up to 2.34 m (7 ft 8 in) in wingspan. For centuries, this species has been one of the most highly regarded birds used in falconry, with the Eurasian subspecies having been used to hunt and kill prey as large as as gray wolves. Due to its excellent hunting prowess, the bird is regarded with great mystic reverence in some tribal cultures.
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With a wingspan of up to 190 cm (6 ft 3 in), the Eurasian eagle-owl is sometimes referred to as the world’s largest owl. Found in a number of habitats but mostly in mountain regions, coniferous forests and steppes, the owl is a nocturnal predator, hunting for a range of different prey species, predominately small mammals, but also other birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, large insects, and other assorted invertebrates.
Sometimes also known as the American harpy eagle, the harpy eagle is the largest and most powerful raptor found in the Americas and one of the largest extant species of eagles in the world. Destruction of its natural habitat has caused it to vanish from many parts of its former range (mostly in Central America), but fortunately, this amazing bird still remains quite common.
Found in mountainous regions from Europe through much of Asia and Africa, the bearded vulture is a large bird of prey with a wingspan of up to 2.83 m (9.3 ft). The bird can be recognized by its unusually long, narrow wings and long, wedge-shaped tail. The bearded vulture is a scavenger with very strong acid in its stomach (estimated to be of pH about 1), which enables it to digest even large bones.
Also known as the monkey-eating eagle, the Philippine eagle is considered the world’s largest eagle in terms of length and wing surface. One of the rarest and strongest birds in the world, it has been declared the Philippine national bird. It is critically endangered, mainly due to massive loss of habitat due to deforestation. Fortunately, the Philippine government has made some efforts to save this species, and killing a Philippine eagle is now punishable by up to 12 years in jail.
Found in open and semi-open habitats of sub-Saharan Africa, the martial eagle is a very large eagle, with an average length of up to 96 cm (38 in), weight of up to 6.2 kg (13.7 lb) and a wingspan of up to 260 cm (8 ft, 6 in). Feeding on anything from other birds to lizards and even big and dangerous snakes including the black mamba, the martial eagle is one of the world’s most powerful avian predators.
Any guesses as to which other eagles made this list? Keep reading to find out!
Blakiston's Fish Owl
Named after the English naturalist Thomas Blakiston, who discovered this owl species in Japan in 1883, the Blakiston’s fish owl is a large owl that hunts in riparian areas (interface between land and rivers or lakes) in Eastern Asia and Russia. With a wingspan of up to 190 cm (75 in), the Blakiston’s fish owl is often regarded the world’s largest owl (at least in terms of wingspan).
Steller's Sea Eagle
The Steller’s Sea Eagle is a large bird of prey found in coastal Northeastern Asia. Characterized by an enormous yellow beak, the bird mainly preys on fish and water birds; its favored prey being salmon and trout. On average, it is the heaviest eagle in the world with some of its specimens weighing in over 9 kg (20 lb).
Also known as the Nubian vulture, the lappet-faced vulture is an Old World vulture that ranks among the longest and largest vultures in the world. The lappet-faced vulture is a scavenging bird, feeding mostly on animal carcasses. These birds are so powerful and aggressive that other vultures will usually cede a carcass to the lappet-faced vulture if it decides to assert itself.
With its weight of up to 12 kg (26 lb), the California condor is the largest North American land bird and one of the largest raptors in the world. This condor became extinct in the wild in 1987 (all remaining wild individuals were captured), but the species has been reintroduced to parts of Arizona, Utah, and California. The condor is a significant bird to many Californian Native American groups and plays an important role in their traditional myths.
Also known by several other names such as the sea eagle, the erne, or the grey sea eagle, the white-tailed eagle is a very large bird of prey, measuring up to 94 cm (37 in) in length with up to a 2.45 m (8 ft) wingspan. A highly efficient hunter as well as opportunistic scavenger, the white-tailed eagle is considered a close cousin of the iconic bald eagle and occupies the same ecological niche, but in Eurasia.
Also known as the black vulture, the monk vulture, or the Eurasian black vulture, the cinereous vulture is a large raptorial bird that is distributed through much of Eurasia. With maximum size of up to 14 kg (31 lb), 1.2 m (4 ft) long, and 3.1 m (10.2 ft) across the wings, the cinereous vulture is sometimes considered the largest true bird of prey in the world.
Closely related to the European griffon vulture, the white-backed vulture is a typical vulture, with only down feathers on the head and neck, very broad wings, and short tail feathers. The bird weighs up to 7.2 kilograms (15.9 lb); it is up to 1 m (40 in) long and has up to a 2.25 m (7 ft) wingspan. The white-backed vulture is a scavenger, feeding mostly from animal carcasses; however, it also takes scraps from human habitations.
Native to hilly and mountainous regions of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and the southern Middle East, Verreaux’s eagle is a very large eagle. It measures up to 96 cm (38 in) long from the bill to the tip of the tail, and females (who are larger than males) can weigh up to 7 kg (15.5 lb). It is one of the most specialized raptors in the world, with its distribution and life history revolving around its favorite prey species, the rock hyraxes.
Great Grey Owl
Also known by many other names such the phantom of the north, cinereous owl, spectral owl, Lapland owl, spruce owl, or bearded owl, the great grey owl is a very large owl, documented as the world’s largest species of owl by length (it can be up to 84 cm or 33 in long). The great grey owl appears to be very large and robust, but its appearance is deceptive as the bird, covered with extremely fluffy feathers, averages at just 1,290 g (2.84 lb) in weight.
African Fish Eagle
Found throughout sub-Saharan Africa around large bodies of open water with abundant food supply, the African fish eagle is a large raptor that resembles the bald eagle in appearance. In this species, the female (weighing up to 3.6 kg or 7.9 lb and having a wingspan of 2.4 m or 7.9 ft) is significantly larger than the male. One of the most common African eagles, the African fish eagle is the national bird of Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Sudan.
Also known as the Cape griffon or Kolbe’s vulture, the Cape vulture is an Old World vulture endemic to southern Africa. Found mainly in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, and Namibia, the Cape vulture is a huge and robust bird of prey measuring up to 115 cm (45 in) in length with a wingspan of up to 2.6 m (8.5 ft) and a body weight of up to 11 kg (24 lb).
White-Bellied Sea Eagle
Also known as the white-breasted sea eagle, the white-bellied sea eagle is a large diurnal bird of prey native from India and Sri Lanka through Southeast Asia to Australia. Found on coasts and major waterways, the white-bellied sea eagle breeds and hunts near water. Fish form around half of its diet, but it is also an opportunistic scavenger. It can measure up to 90 cm (35 in) long with a wingspan of up to 2.2 m (7.2 ft) and weigh 4.5 kg (9.9 lb).
Pallas' Fish Eagle
Pallas’ fish eagle is a large, brownish sea-eagle native to Central Asia. The bird measures up to 84 cm (33 in) in length, with a wingspan of up to 215 cm (85 in). With its diet consisting mainly of freshwater fish, Pallas’ fish eagle is arguably the greatest weight-lifter among all birds of prey. The bird has been documented to catch, lift, and carry fish about twice its weight.
Having a wingspan of up to 2.8 m (9.2ft) and weighing in up to 15 kg (33 lb), the griffon vulture is a large Old World vulture occurring in many parts of Europe and Asia. It establishes nesting colonies in cliffs that are undisturbed by humans where coverage of open areas and availability of dead animals within long distances of these cliffs is high.
Both the national bird and national animal of the United States of America, the bald eagle is a large eagle found in most parts of North America. An excellent fish hunter, the bald eagle is famous for building the largest tree nests ever recorded for any animal species, up to 4 m (13 ft) deep and 2.5 m (8.2 ft) wide. Its typical wingspan is between 1.8 and 2.3 m (5.9 and 7.5 ft), and its mass is normally between 3 and 6.3 kg (6.6 and 13.9 lb).
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