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Do Eagles Eat Snakes?

Yes, eagles eat snakes. Eagles are one of the many predators of snakes in the wild, despite not being immune to snake venom. They would attack snakes from above, catch the snake, and crush them with their talons.

do eagles eat snakes

Eagles are carnivorous predators that eat rodents, other birds, and snakes. They have powerful beaks that they use to munch on snakes even when the snake is still alive.  Their talons are also scaled, so snake venom cannot penetrate.

How Do Eagles Capture Snakes?

Eagles rarely do battle with snakes on the ground. They will attack from above.

Here are two ways by which an eagle captures a snake:

  • Clutch the snake and fly
  • Clutch the snake on the ground and crush it

For the first method, an eagle will swoop down and capture the snake. Most eagles will crush the snake or any prey while in the air. Before the eagle lands, the snake will be dead.

It is also possible for the eagle to drop the snake. The snake is not going to survive the drop. Then, the eagle will fly down and then start eating.

The other method is to dive and clutch the snake. Sometimes, an eagle may fight a snake, but this is rare. What an eagle typically does is hold the snake close at the head with its talons. As such, the snake cannot strike.

While the snake is immobilized, the eagle will begin to eat while the snake is alive. A snake cannot get out of an eagle’s grasp. Eagles have powerful talons and legs, some of which can generate 400 pounds per square inch of power per talon.

What Kind of Eagles Eat Snakes?

Eagles that eat snakes are called snake eagles. However, this only refers to the Spilornis with six species. Some eagles are called serpent eagles. Many eagles eat snakes, and this diet is not relegated to a few select species.

Here are some kinds of eagles that eat snakes:

  • Bald Eagle – identified by its white head, it has a brown body, and it is a national emblem of the United States. It has a curved yellow beak, and its wingspan can reach seven feet. It is one of the biggest raptors in the world.
  • Brown Snake Eagle – it is a kind of eagle that mainly feeds on snakes. It is a large bird of prey found in many parts of Africa. It targets medium-sized snakes, and it does not care if the snake is venomous or not. They typically hunt as they are perched on a tree, but they also do in-flight hunting.  
  • Crested Serpent Eagle – this eagle is not as big as the others, but it is equally formidable. It is typically found in forests of tropical Asia, and its main diet is snakes. It is this diet that gave them their name.  They belong to a family of snake eagles called Circaetus.

Another eagle that eats snakes is the Philippine Eagle. Apart from eagles, there are other kinds of birds that eat snakes. Owls, crows, falcons, roadrunners, and herons will also eat snakes.

Related: What Animals Eat Eagles?

What Snakes Do Eagles Eat?

Snake-eating eagles do not discriminate, especially those that primarily feed on snakes. If they see a snake on the ground or in the water, they will swoop down to execute the capture.

Eagles can eat even venomous snakes, even puff adders and cobras. Some will even eat a black mamba, one of the most venomous snakes in the world.

There is a video on YouTube where one can see a snake eagle in action. While the snake is still alive, the eagle uses its powerful beak to rip the snake open. The eagle starts eating the innards of the snake while the snake is still alive. In this video, the snake is a huge puff adder—a venomous snake. Watch the video here:

Are Eagles Immune to Snake Venom?

Eagles die from snake bites, but bites are rare. Eagles are not immune from snake bites, but they have ways to fight a snake.

Eagles have thick skin on their feet.  Technically, these are scales that cover their feet. When a snake bites, the snake typically hits the scale. Because of this, the venom does not get injected into the eagle’s bloodstream.

Since the venom cannot penetrate, the eagle has no worries. If the eagle gets bitten, it will die just like any other animal, provided that the snake is venomous.

Eagles also use a tactical approach to hunt. To keep them safe, they attack from the air. Since snakes cannot see above them, they have no idea that an eagle is coming to snatch them.

From above, eagles will also swoop a snake in the sea. When a sea snake goes up to the surface to breathe, its head protrudes above the water. What an eagle does is grasp the head and part of the body with its talons.

The rest of the body of the snake dangles in mid-air. Since the snake is not grounded, it has no leverage to bite or strike. This attack is called the snatch-and-grab.

On the ground, an eagle has the reflexes to avoid a snake’s strike. In a face-off, the approach of the eagle is to use its talons to subdue a snake. Once this happens, the fight is over.

Eagles will die if they are not careful. They are not immune to the toxins of a snake’s venom, but they always have an advantage as far as hunting is concerned.  

Conclusion

Eagles eat snakes, and there are some eagle species that feed primarily on them. Eagles are not immune to a snake’s venom, but they have thick skin on their feet. Eagles that cannot outsmart a venomous snake would typically give it up and look for new prey.

Eagles would either swoop down to capture that prey or clutch the snake on the ground and crush its skull. Some eagles would drop the snake from a flight, and the drop is what kills the snake.

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