Do Eagles Eat Pigeons?

Though each eagle species has different diet preferences, however, eagles are opportunistic hunters.

You see, a hungry eagle will eat almost anything, from gophers to a dead floating fish.

And so, pigeons are no exception.


If the opportunity presents itself, a hungry eagle will surely eat a pigeon.

Here’s what you’re going to discover in this article 

  • Do eagles kill pigeons?
  • How does an eagle hunt a pigeon?
  • Why do eagles rarely eat pigeons?
  • What birds to eagles eat?
  • Which type of eagle would eat a pigeon?
  • Predators of pigeons

Lots to cover!

Sound good?

Let’s get started!

Do Eagles Kill Pigeons?

They most certainly do.

In fact, eagles have been reported to kill pigeons so many times that several pest control companies deploy trained eagles and hawks to deter pigeon colonies.

These practices are current-day extensions of falconry. 

Now, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) of 1918 prohibits US citizens from capturing, harming, shooting, killing, or even trading birds of prey without a permit.


Eagles are not normally used as pest control for pigeon populations in America.

However, such practices are common in England.

Even so, Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) discourages such practices.

Still, it issues permits to own birds of prey for capturing pigeons around airports.

This ensures that no pigeon gets caught in any of the airplane engines or parts.

Companies using eagles as pigeon control often argue that such practices are biological control of pigeons. 

Using trained eagles is a completely environmental-friendly solution to control ever-increasing pigeon populations. 

That said, some companies go as far as claiming that eagle-based pigeon control is the most humane way to do it.

While I agree that eagles and hawks represent a natural solution to booming pigeon lofts.

However, I must tell you that it is not the most painless solution.

You see, you can discourage the pigeon population by simply controlling excess feed, reducing domesticated pigeon populations, or expanding the pigeon egg market.

Besides, you can train an eagle to move with your command. but, you cannot discipline a raptor to eat in a civilized manner. 

This means,

If an eagle intends to eat a pigeon, it will tear its victim apart in the most brutal of ways. 

Of course, if you are trying to kill pigeons through chemical exposure, then an eagle represents a more humane pigeon control.  

But maybe, you are thinking, “How cruel can an eagle be?”.


How Does An Eagle Hunt a Pigeon?

Mainly by being sneaky and ruthless.

Now, eagles are equipped with sharp beaks, typically 1-3 inches long. 

But they usually hunt through their feet.

Each eagle foot has three elongated toes, with about 2-4 inches long piercing talons.

Like hawks, eagles also prefer unalarmed victims. 

Eagles dive directly above their prey, grabbing the surprised victim, crushing it under their feet while taking it to a safe place for devouring.

If the prey is too big to take away, then an eagle would eat the victim on the spot.

However, pigeons are of manageable size. 

An eagle will grab a pigeon, squeeze it to its death, take it to its nest and then eat the prize. 

That said, most eagles rarely ever go after the pigeons, even if pigeons are on the menu. 

So, the question is..

Why Do Eagles Rarely Eat Pigeons?

Because pigeons are neither easy prey nor much fulfilling.

You see, an eagle is a fairly large bird, typically weighing more than 7 kgs in weight.

It can grow about 36 inches tall and has a wingspan exceeding 2-3 meters in width. 

To maintain this body size, an eagle family can devour a monkey or sloth in a single day.

Now, an average pigeon can weigh only as much as half a kg.

It grows about 10 inches in height and has a wingspan of merely half a meter. 

Eating a singular pigeon would not satisfy an eagle for long.

Besides, a pigeon can not only fly at 130km per hour whereas, an average eagle cannot soar more than 90km per hour. 

That means,

If it comes to a chase, a pigeon will likely escape an eagle’s pursuit.

Furthermore, a pigeon is a flighted small bird.

It can move through small distances with greater precision.

Also, it can escape through all 6 different directions. 

In contrast, an eagle is too bulky to move swiftly and precisely through small distances, even though certain eagles can dive at about 180 km per hour, an eagle cannot easily grab pigeons mid-air. 

Therefore, the best scenario for an eagle to catch a pigeon is when a pigeon is sitting alone on the ground while carelessly eating. 

Such ideal conditions are hardly ever met. 

For an eagle, capturing and devouring a pigeon costs more energy than not pursuing a pigeon at all.

You see, eagles prefer land-based prey that cannot run in more than 3 directions, or, marine prey that cannot move down much quickly. 

Eagles are rather lazy birds that often conserve their energy by scavenging the dead.

Now, you may be questioning an eagle’s dietary habits, wondering: 

What Birds Do Eagles Eat?

Generally, eagles prefer medium-sized birds with slow speeds.  

It’s mainly because they want prey that can fulfill their hunger with minimum struggle. 

So, eagles have been reported to mainly consume the following birds:

  1. Chickens
  2. Ducks
  3. Geese
  4. Other Seabirds

That said, an eagle will eat small birds like sparrows, doves, and even hummingbirds if the right opportunity presents itself.

In fact, 

An eagle will even eat owlets or small hawks if it can easily grab them. 

Ornithologists describe birds of prey eating other birds as a form of natural selection. 

According to this theory, 

Since raptors mainly eat slow, aged, or incompetent birds. Therefore, only the birds with the best genes get to survive and reproduce further through each generation of birds. Thereby, predation naturally selects the most compatible genes to thrive. 

So, if we see an eagle eating a pigeon, then most likely that pigeon was not competent enough to survive. 

But then, different eagle species have distinct diet preferences.


Which Eagles Are Most Likely To Eat Pigeons?

Golden eagles are considered the most reported pigeon-eating eagles.

Still, the exact statistics depend on several different factors including habitats, exposure to pigeon populations, availability of other prey.  

Besides, eagles are so diverse in their diet preferences, that ornithologists often classify them if four groups.

These include:

  1. Serpent Eagles: They live in deserts and eat snakes including black mamba.
  2. Harpy Eagles: They live in woodlands and eat large prey like monkeys, sloths, and raccoons. 
  3. Booted Eagles: They live mainly in northern rather cold regions and have feathers on their legs. They eat mostly small mammals and birds.  For example, golden eagles.
  4. Sea Eagles: These live near water bodies and prefer eating fish e.g. Bald Eagles.

So, harpy eagles are least likely to attack a pigeon as they cannot fulfill their nutritional needs merely through a single pigeon. 

Serpent eagles are least likely to encounter pigeon species.

But sea eagles will likely ignore a pigeon if they have dead fish floating above the water surface. 

Booted eagles are most likely to attack and consume pigeons.

Even so, booted eagles have a wide assortment of prey available including hares, squirrels, and muskrats therefore, even these eagles will not exclusively look for pigeons.  

Which Bird Of Prey Eats Pigeons?

Falcons and Sparrowhawks are the most common pigeon-eating birds of prey.

This list includes the following raptors: 

Bird of Prey Size Speed Hunting Method Remarks
Falcons About 0.5-7 kgs weight; 

10-20 inches tall, 1m wide wingspan.

Flight speed 

390 Km/hour;

Dive speed

320 Km/hour.

Can pluck the pigeon mid-air, crushing it while flying.  Most swift and precise pigeon predators.

(Sometimes, other hawk species)

About 0.5-1 kg weight; 

20 inches tall, 1.2m wide wingspan.

Flight speed 

50 Km/hour;

Dive speed

70 Km/hour.

Can align the body into a teardrop shape to maximize streamline motion, and rapidly grab pigeons. Female Sparrowhawks attack pigeons when nesting. 
Owls About 0.5-4 kg weight; 

23 inches tall, 1-2m wide wingspan.

Flight speed 

70 Km/hour;

Dive speed

80 Km/hour. 

Being nocturnal birds attack pigeons in the night.  May eat more than 4 pigeons in a single raid. 
Eagles About 2-7 kg weight; 

36 inches tall, 2-3m wide wingspan.

Flight speed 

90 Km/hour;

Dive speed

180 Km/hour.

Will attack pigeons only when they can be sneaky enough. Mostly happens when a pigeon is eating alone on the ground. 
Ospreys   About 1-3 kg weight; 

24 inches tall, 1-2m wide wingspan.

Flight speed 

128 Km/hour;

Dive speed

320 Km/hour.

Attack a pigeon only if it’s near a water body. Rarely attack pigeons.  

Wrapping Up 

Eagles are opportunistic hunters so, if they find a chance to kill and eat pigeons, they will surely do so.

However, hunting pigeons is not an easy task.

Another thing is, a pigeon usually does not satisfy an eagle’s hunger which is why eagles prefer eating other larger and slower birds. 

But that does not mean pigeons are safe, as several other raptors can eat pigeons.  

Here’s some other related articles about Eagles which you’ll find interesting so do have a read!

Are eagles dangerous?

Why do crows attack eagles?

Human vs Eagle – Everything you need to know! 


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