Eagles are large birds of prey. There are several species, such as golden eagles, white-tailed eagles, and ospreys. They feed on small and large animals. They grab their prey with their strong claws in flight, on the ground, or in the water.
Eagles usually build their nests, called eyries, on rocks or tall trees. The female lays one to four eggs there. The incubation period is 30 to 45 days depending on the species. The chicks are initially white, their dark plumage grows later. After about 10 to 11 weeks, the young can fly.
The most well-known eagle species in Central Europe is the golden eagle. Its feathers are brown and its outstretched wings are about two meters wide. It lives mainly in the Alps and around the Mediterranean, but also in North America and Asia. The golden eagle is very strong and can hunt mammals heavier than itself. It usually catches rabbits and marmots, but also young deer and deer, sometimes reptiles and birds.
In the north and east of Germany, on the other hand, you can find the white-tailed eagle: its wingspan is even slightly larger than that of the golden eagle, namely up to 2.50 meters. The head and neck are lighter than the rest of the body. The white-tailed eagle feeds mainly on fish and waterfowl.
Closely related to it is the bald eagle, found only in North America. Its plumage is almost black, while its head is entirely white. He is the heraldic animal, a distinctive mark, of the United States.
Are eagles endangered?
Humans have hunted the golden eagle or cleaned its nests for centuries. They saw him as a competitor because he ate human prey, such as rabbits, but also lambs. The golden eagle was extinct throughout Germany, except in the Bavarian Alps. It survived mainly in mountains where people could not reach its nests.
Various states have protected the golden eagle since the 20th century. Since then, eagle populations have recovered in many countries, including Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
The white-tailed eagle has also been hunted for centuries and has almost become extinct in western Europe. In Germany, he survived only in the federal states of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Brandenburg. Another danger came later: the insect toxin DDT accumulated in the fish and thus also poisoned the white-tailed eagle so that their eggs were infertile or even broke.
Some states have helped in a variety of ways to reintroduce white-tailed eagles. The insecticide DDT was banned. In winter, the white-tailed eagle is fed additionally. At times, eagle nests were even guarded by volunteers so that the eagles were not disturbed or young birds were stolen by pet dealers. Since 2005, it is no longer considered endangered in Germany. In Austria, the white-tailed eagle is threatened with extinction. Especially in winter, they also eat carrion, i.e. dead animals. These can contain a lot of lead, which poisons the white-tailed eagle. Moving trains or power lines are also a hazard. Some people also still lay poisoned baits.
The white-tailed eagle was never at home in Switzerland. At most, he comes by as a guest passing through. Ospreys and lesser-spotted eagles also breed in Germany. There are numerous other species of eagles around the world.
Why are eagles often in coats of arms?
A coat of arms is an image that represents a country, city, or family. Since ancient times people have been fascinated by the great birds gliding in the sky. Researchers even suspect that the name eagle comes from the word “noble”. The ancient Greeks considered the eagle to be the symbol of Zeus, the father of the gods, while the Romans believed it to be Jupiter.
In the Middle Ages, too, the eagle was a sign of royal power and nobility. That is why only kings and emperors were allowed to use the eagle as their heraldic animal. So he came into the coats of arms of many countries, for example, Germany, Austria, Poland, and Russia. Even the USA has an eagle crest, although they never had a king. The American eagle is a bald eagle, and the German a golden eagle.