The 3 Types of Eagles in the United Kingdom! (2023)
What types of eagles can you find in the United Kingdom?
Whenever they appear, I make sure to stop and watch these incredible birds of prey. I’m always amazed at their beauty, large size, and astonishing ability to soar at extreme heights! And I’m not alone, as eagles have a special place in many people’s hearts and minds.
Below are the eagles that live in the United Kingdom!
Make sure to pay attention to the range maps to see which eagles live near you! In addition, I’ve included a few photographs to help you identify any birds you are lucky enough to observe for each species.
#1. Golden Eagle
- Aquila chrysaetos
- Adults have a length of 66 to 100 centimeters and a wingspan of 1.8 to 2.3 meters.
- The coloring is dark brown on the body, with a golden-brown head and yellow feet.
- The head seems small for the body and includes a hooked beak.
Golden Eagles are incredibly fast and agile, which makes them expert hunters. Where other eagles primarily eat fish or reptiles, these eagles almost always eat mammals. Their favorite prey includes rabbits, hares, ground squirrels, and marmots. But these raptors have been known to hunt and kill animals as large as small deer, badgers, or a bear cub. Talk about bravery (or stupidity?)! 🙂
Golden Eagles typically mate for life. To impress a female, male birds pick up a stick or a rock and fly up high, only to drop it. Then the eagle dives to catch the object again before it hits the ground! Once paired up, it’s common for them to hunt cooperatively, where one individual ambushes the prey and drives it towards the second bird to make the kill.
Golden Eagles are common to see in the United Kingdom.
These birds prefer vast open areas that include cliffs, mountains, or hills. However, you can also spot these birds in grasslands, farmlands, shrublands, arctic tundra, and coniferous woodlands.
These eagles are not extremely noisy, and their calls sound like weak, high whistles. For such a powerful raptor, you’d think Golden Eagles would have a much more intimidating sound!
#2. White-Tailed Eagle
- Haliaeetus albicilla
- Adults typically range from 66 to 94 centimeters long with a wingspan of 1.78 to 2.45 meters.
- Their coloring is grayish-brown with a lighter, striped head. They have black and yellow beaks and yellow feet.
- The tail feathers are white above and below.
White-Tailed Eagles are the largest eagle in the United Kingdom!
They are one of the largest living birds of prey, growing to nearly a meter in length and a wingspan of almost 2.5 meters!
This species is associated with water and primarily lives in coastal regions of the United Kingdom. Their habitats include estuaries, coastal marshes, and rocky beaches. If these habitats aren’t available, White-Tailed Eagles will nest and live in forested areas with nearby water.
You shouldn’t have any trouble recognizing this species since they’re the only eagle in the United Kingdom with a completely white tail! They are also so large that they’re impossible to miss, whether flying or perching in a tree or at the edge of a cliff.
White-Tailed Eagles are patient, calm birds and can remain still, only occasionally calling, for hours at a time! They spend up to 90% of their day perched in trees or on cliff edges, occasionally taking flight and soaring over bodies of water.
Their primary diet is fish and water birds, but they’ll occasionally eat mammals if they’re more readily available. To catch fish, they perch until they spot their target near the surface of the water, then soar down and take it alive. Hunting water birds is trickier since most species are faster than the White-Tailed Eagle. As a result, they often use the element of surprise or wait until a bird is exhausted from hunting to catch and eat it.
- Pandion haliaetus
- Adults are 50 to 65 centimeters long, and their wingspan is 150 to 180 centimeters.
- Coloring is dark brown on the wings and back with a white neck, chest, and underparts.
- The beak and talons are black.
The first thing you need to know about Ospreys is they are NOT eagles! They are not hawks either and, scientifically speaking, have been given their own Family (Pandionidae) and Genus (Pandion), separate from all other birds of prey.
So, why include them on a list of common eagles in the United Kingdom?
Even though Ospreys are not eagles, they certainly resemble them. Therefore, many people think they are looking at some species of eagle or hawk when they first observe an Osprey. These raptors have also been given nicknames, such as Sea Hawk, River Hawk, and Fish Hawk, hinting at the association between an Osprey and other birds of prey.
When you think of an Osprey, think of fish because that is what these birds eat 99% of the time. Even an Osprey’s talons are perfectly adapted for catching fish. If you take a close look, you’ll see they are extremely curved and even intersect when fully closed, making them perfectly designed for holding onto slippery fish!
And these guys don’t just skim the surface and grab their prey near the top like an eagle. Instead, Ospreys hit the water HARD and plunge right in to assure themselves of a catch. Amazingly, they can then take off while submerged and with a fish in their talons!
Because of their specialized diet, you’ll almost always find Ospreys living, breeding, and raising their young around bodies of water. They mate for life, and it’s common for them to use human-made nesting platforms. If you live near a large body of water, I recommend installing one to see if you can attract a nesting pair!
Listen for Ospreys next time you’re near a large body of water. Their alarm call is a series of short high-pitched whistles that descend in pitch. The noise has been compared to a teapot taken off a stove.
Do you need additional help identifying eagles in the United Kingdom?
Here are a few books and resources you can purchase that will assist! (Links below take you to Amazon)
Which eagles have you seen before in the United Kingdom?
Leave a comment below!