Eagles Vs Snakes [an Equal Match or A One Way Meal?]

eagles vs snakes

Both eagles and snakes are seen to be fierce predators, striking at unsuspecting victims and often devouring them while they are still alive, squeezing the life out of them.

Not to mention the venom that so many snakes possess.

With a snake’s muscular body and venous bite, vs an eagle’s powerful talons and razor-sharp beak, one could only wonder how an interaction between the two may occur.

Although snakes are venomous, and often extremely large and strong, many snake species are a common snack for eagles.

In most cases, when a snake needs to fend off an eagle, it comes out second best.

Let us take a deeper look into the relationship between eagles and snakes, which eagles eat snakes, and how each species could affect the other.

Can Eagles Kill Snakes?

There are more than 60 species of eagles and over 3000 species of snakes, some of them large while others incredibly small.

eagles kill snakes

Eagles can easily kill a snake, by using their strong talons and sharp beak, however, this will depend on the size of the bird, as well as the size of the snake.

Take the Great Nicobar serpent eagle for example, Although this eagle is known for catching small reptiles such as snakes (hence the name) they are also the smallest known eagle.

As they are limited by size, this small eagle would not be able to kill and carry away large snakes such as pythons.

Can Snakes Kill Eagles?

Snakes are great killers, and with only a single strike they can leave their victims without hope and lifeless. 

snakes kill eagles

This could lead us to assume that snakes pose a real threat to eagles, but this is not quite the case.

Eagles, particularly snake-eagles, serpent-eagles, and bateleur eagles, have thick, hard, scale-like skin covering their legs, which helps protect them from snake bites.

That said, if an eagle were to be bitten on their flesh by a venomous snake, it could cause harm and potentially death, although this is rare.

Eagles are also at risk of being caught up in the snake’s coil as it catches it and attempts to fly away.

If the snake is large enough and not held correctly, it could coil around the eagle, causing the bird to fall from the sky.

Once again this is rare, as the birds take great care when hunting snakes.

Who Would Win In a Fight Between a Snake and An Eagle?

Although we can assume which will win in a fight, and it’s clear that many eagles actively hunt snakes, let’s take a look at what each animal has to offer.

* The below values are approximations as the features of each animal will differ across families.

Physical Feature (Averages)SnakesEagles
Size4 inches – 21 feet16 inches – 3 feet tall
Speed and Agility3 mph – 15 mph20 mph with a 200mph dive
WeaponsPowerful constriction and venomous bitesPowerful talons, razor sharp beak, and speed
SensesAcute heat sensing “pits” and a tongue used for smelling. Snakes have poor visionPristine eyesight and a strong sense of hearing (similar to that of humans)
Physical DefensesSnakes make use of camouflage, threat displays, and their sizeEagles rely on their senses to avoid trouble before it begins, flying out of dangers way

With the above table to summarize the strengths of each species, it becomes more evident who the winner would be during a face-off.

Eagles have the advantage of height, weight, and power. Not only this, but they have strong senses that keep them out of danger, as well as eyesight being able to see for miles.

Lastly, eagles attack from above, surprising their prey.

With a combination of a well-planned surprise attack and underlying power, an eagle can easily, and usually does, overpower a snake.

They are apex predators after all.

Do Eagles Eat Snakes?

Most eagles will feed on small mammals and reptiles such as rodents, lizards, and snakes, and as mentioned above, it is quite common for eagles to attack snakes.

eagle eat snakes

Unlike the rivalry between eagles and owls, snakes and eagles don’t “hate” each other, but rather, fit nicely into their ecological roles.

Many eagles feed on snakes, some of which are legendary snake catches that will choose the slithery serpent over other meals when possible.

How Do Eagles Kill snakes?

Eagles typically hunt from prominent perches or a soaring position high up in the air.

When a snake is spotted the eagle will swoop down, tucking its wings, reaching speeds up to 200 mph (depending on the bird).

The eagle aims at grabbing the snake behind the head to avoid being bitten. The talons of the bird have wrapped around the snake’s spine where it is crushed.

With some snake-hunting eagles, the Brown Snake-eagle in particular, if the element of surprise is lost and the snake turns on the bird, they have a last leg of defense.

In this case, the eagle will ferociously flap its wings in an attempt to get the snake to use the last of its venom while avoiding dangerous bites to the eagle’s body.

Once the snake has been killed, some species of the eagle will carry it to a perch where they will use the sharp beak to tear flesh and eat it.

Other eagles such as the Black-chested Snake-eagle will swallow smaller snakes while in the air, or devour larger snakes on the ground.

These eagles are also known to feed small snakes to each other while flying.

Do Snakes Eat Eagles?

Eagles are at the top of their respective food chain and are apex predators. In other words, eagles are not naturally hunted and eaten by anything else.

That said, although snakes are hunters and prefer live food, some snakes will feed on the dead carcass of birds, eagles included if the opportunity arises.

Do Snakes Eat Other Birds?

Just because snakes don’t, or rather, can’t catch and feed on eagles, it doesn’t mean that birds are entirely off the menu.

snakes eat other birds

In the wild, snakes predominantly catch small birds that are unable to fly, although they will catch adult birds by using a quick strike and the element of surprise.

Most Snakes that eat birds are tree-dwelling, although some species will feed on ground-nesting birds such as chickens.

Some snakes that eat birds include:

  • Twig Snakes
  • Spider-Tailed Horned Viper
  • Burmese Python
  • Brown Tree Snake
  • King Cobra
  • Olive House Snake
  • Northern Pacific Rattlesnake

Do Snakes Eat Eagles Eggs?

Although some snakes love devouring eggs, attempting to eat an eagle’s egg is a risky business.

Eagles don’t leave their nests unprotected for long periods of time, meaning any invasion from a snake will need to be swift, and as we know, snakes don’t move very quickly.

As snakes are natural food for eagles, attempting to enter an eagle’s nest is like putting yourself on the dinner plate.

Furthermore, eagles choose to make their homes in incredibly difficult places to reach, such as cliff edges or on the highest branches of a tree canopy.

Do Snakes Eat Other Bird Eggs?

Just as some snakes love eating birds, others cannot resist a juicy bird egg.

Some snakes are specialized egg eaters, while others will take on the tasty snake if the opportunity arises

In most cases a snake will swallow a bird’s egg while using its vertebrae to crack it open as it swallows.

Some snakes that eat birds’ eggs include:

  • East African Egg-Eater
  • Corn Snake
  • Western Rat Snake
  • Green Basin Rattlesnake
  • Taiwanese Tree Snake

The Symbolism of Eagle vs Snake

Seeing images, flags, and emblems of an eagle fighting snakes is fairly common, and can even be found on the Mexican coat of arms and national flag.

Mexican coat of arms and national flag

Eagles vs Snakes represent the conflict of two opposing, although powerful forces.

Eagles are often seen as noble, righteous, or good, while the serpent is viewed with a more negative connotation, and therefore seen as the enemy.

In essence, an image of a snake fighting an eagle is a representation of the ongoing battle between good and evil.

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