8 Birds With Claws Bigger Than a Bear’s

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Updated: May 19, 2022
Image Credit MarcusVDT/Shutterstock.com
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From their beautiful colors and claws to their powerful wings and chirping sounds, birds are always a favorite flying creature to talk about. Bears are one of our favorite animals too; with their sizable brain structures, they are one of the most intelligent land creatures of North America. What more? They are sporty, protective, and adventurous.

In this article, we’ve decided to compare birds and bears with a characteristic that they both share; their claws. We’ll discuss the birds with more enormous feet than the average bear and let you in on some interesting bird and bear facts.

Ready? Let’s get started. 

Do Birds Have Claws or Talons?

bald eagles perched over water
Claws refer to curved and sharp nails on many animals’ toes, while talons are claws found in birds of prey.

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Knowing the difference between claws and talons can be challenging, especially as many writers love to use them interchangeably when discussing specific birds. Generally, claws refer to curved and sharp nails on many animals’ toes. However, we use talons to describe the pointed claws of predatory birds (birds of prey or raptors) that hunt other animals for food. So, while all talons are claws, not all claws are talons.

How Big Are A Bear’s Claws?

Various bear species have different claw sizes. For example, polar bears have claws that can measure up to 3.75 inches, and grizzly bears’ claws are about 2 to 4 inches long. The front claws of a black bear are typically shorter than 2 inches, while sun bears can have their claws grow up to 4 inches long. 

What Birds Have Talons That Beat a Bear’s Claws?

Birds with the biggest claws are typically raptors like owls, falcons, eagles, hawks, ospreys, harriers, and kites. These birds have larger claws than those of some bears:

1. The Harpy Eagle 

Largest Eagles in the World: Harpy Eagle
The harpy eagle’s talon measures about 4.8 inches, which is bigger than a grizzly bear’s claws.

The harpy eagle is one of the biggest birds globally, with talons larger than any other living eagle. The male talon is 3.4 inches in length, and the female talon measures about 4.8 inches in length, making them bigger than a grizzly or sun bear’s claws.

While they typically will not soar long distances, they can fly as fast as 50 miles per hour, making it easy to snatch their kill with their strong, long talons quickly. Harpy eagles are so mighty that they can prey on animals much weightier than them.

2. Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk on a branch in the Arizona Desert.
The ferruginous hawk’s long talons makes the bird a dangerous predator.

The ferruginous hawk is another bird with talons larger than a bear’s claws. Their claws are about 3 inches long. Native to North America, the ferruginous hawk is one of the biggest and heaviest hawks ever, weighing more than 4 pounds. It’s easy to mistake this bird for an eagle because they possess similar characteristics, especially in size and behavioral traits.

Their long talons and extraordinary ability to sight prey from a long distance make them extremely sharp and dangerous predators. They are also quick to catch and kill their game, usually within two minutes.

3. The Great Philippine Eagle 

Largest Eagles in the World: Philippine Eagle
Great Philippine eagles have talons as long as 4 inches.

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The great Philippine eagle is the national bird of the Philippines. They are the largest birds in terms of length and wingspan. With talons as long as four inches, this bird’s claws are larger than that of a black bear

The great Philippine eagle is rare to find, with less than 500 of them in the forests. This bird can snatch monkeys, snakes, and squirrels.

4. African Crowned Eagle (Also Known as the Crowned Eagle)

crowned eagle perched at the top of a tree
The African crowned eagle hallux claws are between 2.06 to 2.42 inches long.

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You can find the African crowned eagle with its dark brown head in sub-Saharan Africa. This bird has a similar claw size to a middle-sized harpy eagle which some  describe as “unusually large.” As such, their talons beat that of many bears in length. Their hallux claws are between 2.06 to 2.42 inches long.

5. Eurasian Eagle Owl 

Close-up of Eurasian Eagles Owl, sitting in a tree.
Female Eurasian eagle owls can grow to a length of 26 inches.

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The Eurasian eagle owl is one of the largest owls, with about 2.28 inches long talons. It’s easy to identify this bird species with its big, bright orange eyes and prominent ear tufts. With its powerful and heavy nature, the Eurasian eagle-owl lives in large part of Eurasia, hence its name.

6. The Great Horned Owl

why do owls hoot at night
Great horned owls can grow as tall as 2.1 feet and are among the largest owls.

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Each of the great horned owl’s four talons is about 2.4 inches long. They can grow as tall as 2.1 feet and are among the largest owls. Native to the Americas, the great horned owl is also called the hoot or tiger owl.

7. Martial Eagle

Largest Eagles in the World: Martial Eagle
Martial eagles are 31 to 38 inches tall and have talon sizes of about 2.1 inches.

Theodore Mattas/Shutterstock.com

Martial eagles have talon sizes of about 2.1 inches. As such, they’re larger than a black bear’s claws. They’re 31 to 38 inches tall with a weight of approximately 14 pounds and a wingspan of almost 6.5 inches.

8. Bald Eagle 

Apex predator: Bald Eagle
The bald eagle is one of the strongest species of birds globally. Its talon size reaches about 2 inches.

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Bald eagles have their four large talons on each foot reaching about 2 inches. Even though they’re among the strongest birds globally, they prefer to hunt and kill small animals, especially fish and little mammals. This bird has a stronger grip strength than the average human.

What Determines the Size of a Bird’s Talons?

Bird talons grow differently depending on numerous factors. The most obvious ones include:

  • Size of the Bird

Generally, larger birds have long and strong claws, while small birds’ claws are typically smaller and softer than talons.

  • Bird Species 

Some bird species tend to grow more giant claws than other birds. When compared to other raptors, falcons have smaller claws.

  • Primary Purpose 

Birds with talons for hunting will typically have longer and stronger claws for a powerful grip on their prey. Their nail sizes may also depend on their method of hunting. For example, falcons use the diving technique to catch their game mid-air with their beaks instead of the snatching method common to eagles. Their nails tend to be smaller than an eagle’s claws as they need them less for catching prey.

Again, birds like jacanas need long and clawed nails to maintain balance on irregular surfaces. Other birds use their talons to clean areas that their beaks can’t reach, build nests, and search for food on the ground.

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