Eagles are large birds of prey in the Accipitridae family that live worldwide except in Australia. Most of the 82 species live in Europe, Asia, and Africa, while three species live in Australia, two live in the United States and Canada, and nine live in Central and South America.
Generally, animals with a larger body mass live longer than smaller-bodied animals. Because eagles have large bodies, they typically live longer than most birds. Eagles can live for 15 to 30 years, depending on the species and their environmental conditions.
Because of their potential longevity, eagles face some different risks from their environment than short-lived birds. One of these risks was the widespread use of the insecticide DDT, which prevented them from producing as many offspring because it thinned their eggshells.
How Long Do Captive Eagles Live?
Eagles are a protected species worldwide, and efforts to save them increased in the 1960s. These birds cannot be kept as pets because of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; instead, when people find an injured or sick eagle, they must take it to a rehabilitation center.
Some of the rescued eagles sustain injuries that prevent them from returning to the wild, and they must spend the rest of their lives at a rehabilitation or wildlife center. Some of these individuals become animal ambassadors that help educate people about wildlife.
While most eagles eventually heal and leave the rehabilitation center to be released into the wild, some individuals stay because their injuries would not allow them to survive in the wild, like the birds with permanent wing damage.
Captive eagles usually live longer than wild eagles unless their injuries or illnesses are eventually fatal. Healthy captive eagles can live for 50 years if they have a well-balanced diet and live in a stable environment.
How Long Do Wild Eagles Live?
Wild eagles are one of the top predators throughout their range. Their large size and deadly claws and beaks allow them to take prey of all sizes, including animals larger than themselves, such as small deer or large fish.
Wild eagles usually live for at least 15 years, depending on the species. Bald Eagles generally live 15 to 25 years, although there are records of eagles with bands that have survived longer.
In the wild, Golden Eagles can live for 30 years or more when they have adequate nesting locations and territories with access to sufficient sources of food to sustain themselves and their offspring.
What Kills Eagles?
While eagles are apex predators, they can sometimes become prey for other apex predators, especially young or injured eagles. Eagles have a 70% survival rate in their first year, especially since the use of DDT was banned.
Eaglets and eagle eggs are sometimes eaten by ravens, crows, owls, and other raptors. Young or injured eagles can be taken down by foxes, coyotes, wolves, lions, and bears, although that does not occur frequently.
What Happens When an Eagle Dies?
Eagles usually mate for life. They protect the same territory and build on the same nest every breeding season. In addition, they produce offspring each year that remain within their parents’ territory for five to six years before flying off to create their own territory.
When one of the eagles in a pair dies, the remaining eagle will search for a new mate and continue to defend their territory. If there are eggs or nestlings in the nest, they often do not survive the death of one of their parents unless their remaining parent quickly finds a mate.
What is the Oldest Eagle?
The oldest wild Icelandic Sea Eagle was 25 years old when it was rescued with an injury and turned over to researchers for rehabilitation. The researchers discovered an old band, which allowed them to find the actual age of the bird.
In New York, the oldest wild Bald Eagle lived to be 38 years old before it was hit by a car and killed. Researchers banded it in Minnesota and knew the exact age of the bird when they recovered its body.
The oldest documented eagle in captivity was a Bald Eagle at the Louisville Zoo that lived for more than 40 years. While the zoo does not know the exact age because the adult eagle was unbanded when rescued from the wild, it lived at the zoo for 36 years before it died.