Lions are one of the most fearsome animals in the world. These apex predators are expert hunters and will eat almost anything it can catch.
You might imagine that this limits lions to only land-based prey such as gazelle and zebra, but is this always the case? As it turns out, the answer is pretty surprising!
Eagles are known for their speed and mobility in the air, as well as their razor-sharp talons. While this is normally enough to put most predators off on their own, sometimes lions may try their hand at taking an eagle down.
So do lions eat eagles? Read on and find out for yourself!
Do Lions Eat Eagles?
So first things first – will lions actually eat eagles?
Well, the short answer is that yes, they will. However, the relationship between the two animals is far from a typical predator-and-prey scenario, and lions won’t go out of their way to hunt, kill, and eat eagles.
Both lions and eagles are apex predators, meaning that they are at the top of their respective food chains.
Because eagles predominately hunt in the air and lions hunt on the ground, there usually isn’t much conflict between the two species.
Additionally, eagles are far too tricky to hunt for it to be worthwhile for a lion – their speed and ability of flight means that they can easily outmaneuver a land-dwelling lion, while vicious talons and a razor-sharp beak lets the eagle hold its own against most threats.
Likewise, lions are far too strong and large for an eagle to take on and hope to win; as a result, these two species tend to keep to themselves.
While this is normally limited to land-based prey such as gazelle, zebra, and wildebeest, a lion will have no qualms about eating an eagle if it doesn’t have to worry about catching it first.
For example, a sick or injured eagle that is grounded and unable to defend itself makes easy picking for a hungry lion.
Eagle nests might also be targeted as long as they’re accessible, as the young eagles won’t be able to defend themselves against the lion; however, this doesn’t happen often due to how viciously protective eagles are of their young.
Lions are fairly intelligent animals at the top of their food chain, and they won’t normally seek out prey that it will have too much trouble catching.
Unless there is some circumstance that a lion can take advantage of (such as injury), eagles are just too much of a hassle to hunt for a lion to bother.
An eagle’s agility, beak and talons, and the lack of meat on them means that only a desperate lion will try to hunt one. However, lions are opportunistic and will have no issue eating an eagle that falls into their grasp.
How Can A Lion Catch An Eagle?
So now that we’ve established that a lion can and will, in fact, eat an eagle, the question is how they actually manage it in the first place?
As we mentioned earlier, lions might take the opportunity to eat a sick or injured eagle if it doesn’t think it poses a threat, but this isn’t always the case. While lions don’t actively hunt eagles, they may still try to take one down if the opportunity presents itself.
For instance, a roosting eagle on ground level might become a lion’s target if the lion is stealthy enough.
Some eagles will nest on the ground or in rocky crags; this makes it easier for a lion to sneak up and attack them or their nest, especially during the night while the eagle is sleeping.
While it’s uncommon, lions might also attack and eat an eagle if one attacks them.
This doesn’t happen very often (as mentioned earlier, conflicts between lions and eagles are rare) but can occur if a lion comes too close to the eagle’s nest or if the eagle attacks one of the lion’s cubs.
A head-on approach won’t be effective when it comes to taking down an eagle, which is the main reason why lions avoid hunting eagles in the first place.
Instead, lions will only eat eagles if circumstances allow it – like if the eagle is grounded and unable to escape or fight back – or (in the unlikely case that the lion is hunting an eagle) if it can utilize its stealth.
Overall, however, lions and eagles will typically just leave each other be.
Do Their Habitats Overlap?
Part of the reason why these animals don’t have many conflicts between them is due to their differing habitats.
As birds of prey, eagles spend much of their time either in the sky or in high places that allow them to spot prey on the ground.
Meanwhile, lions hunt exclusively on the ground, and their climbing skills aren’t effective enough to reach the tall perches of eagles.
With that said, though, there is some overlap between where these two species live. Eagles are found in many of the same areas as lions throughout the world, including areas such as the Serengeti and other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.
While not technically lions, cougars and mountain lions share a lot of their North American habitat with various species of eagles; however, they do not often interact with each other.
Despite their differences in how they hunt and travel, lions and eagles live in many of the same locations. But while these two predators can sometimes fight or hunt each other, most of the time they are able to coexist peacefully.
Lions and eagles are both incredible hunters in their natural habitats and can take on most prey with ease. But despite this, the two species will tend to avoid each other.
So while lions will eat an eagle if the opportunity arises (like if the eagle is injured), there generally isn’t any reason for a lion to hunt an eagle.
After all, it’s a lot of effort and difficulty just for a meal, and a lion will have a much better chance by sticking to its normal prey.