Eagle vs Snake: Who Would Win in a Fight?

What Eats Snakes
© COULANGES/Shutterstock.com

Written by Kyle Glatz

Updated: March 4, 2023

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Eagles are predatory birds that stalk the skies of the Americas, Asia, Europe, and more. They’re great at identifying and attacking their foes quickly and without remorse. If you take a close look at the Mexican flag, which features an eagle killing a snake, it might seem like an eagle vs snake fight has already been decided. Is that the case, though? We’ll take a look at how these animals measure up to one another and who survives a confrontation!

Comparing an Eagle and a Snake

Snake vs Eagle
Eagles will often hunt snakes, but do they always come out on top?
EagleSnake
SizeWeight: 1.1lbs – 15lbs
Height: 15.7in – 39in
Wingspan: 27in – 98in
Weight: 5lbs – 20lbs average (much greater exists)
Length: 36in on average (much greater exists)
Speed and Movement TypeUp to 150-200 mph (while diving)– 1-3 Mph on average, faster species, like the sidewinder, move up to 15 mph.
Undulating body motions on the ground is the primary form of locomotion.
Weapons– Large, curved beak
– 4 long, sharp talons on each foot
Fangs, some with small grooves that may inject venom.
– Bite power is irrelevant, snakes kill by venom or crushing in most cases.
Senses– Amazing sense of sight that allows it to see between four and eight times farther than a human.
– Human-like hearing
– Poor sense of smell
– Some snakes can sense heat with specialized “pits.”
– Flicking tongue aids with their good sense of smell
– Most snakes have poor vision
– Can only hear low frequencies
Defenses– High speed to escape trouble
– Senses of sight helps avoid damage
– Bright colors and sounds can ward off predators
– Can hide in small spaces to make up for a lack of speed.
Offensive Capabilities– Heavy, sharp beak can rip into enemy
– Talons allow eagles to grip and tear flesh
– Speed allows for surprise attacks
– Venom
– Constriction    
Predatory Behavior– Eagles catch their prey and crush it with talons while tearing into it.
– They are ambush predators that go into a steep, fast dive before landing a kill.
– Sometimes ambush predators but also pursuit predators
– Opportunistic predator

The Key Factors in a Fight Between an Eagle and a Snake

Very aggressive Bush Viper (Atheris squamigera) in tree. The average size of the snake is 18 to 24 inches.

To name a winner, we need to look at each animal’s attributes and fighting skills

©Mark_Kostich/Shutterstock.com

How do we know whether the slithery reptiles or the soaring eagle wins a bout against the other? They’re incredibly different creatures, after all. The best way to evaluate this fight is to consider key factors that would affect the outcome. To that end, we’re going to explore the way that eagles and snakes fight along with the physical attributes that give them the edge over the other.

After compiling that information, we’ll know enough to say with some certainty which creature survives this fight.

Physical Features of an Eagle and a Snake

Apex predator: Bald Eagle

The grip of the

bald eagle

is 10 times stronger than that of a human, and it can carry up to four times its own body weight.

©Chris Hill/Shutterstock.com

Snakes and eagles have several morphological differences, so it’s important to find areas that we can compare. We have come up with five dimensions of the animals’ bodies to explore that will give us insight into which one is better suited to survive the fight. See which animal has the advantage in various situations!

Eagle vs Snake: Size

Eagles are large birds of prey, and they can stand over 3ft tall with a wingspan that exceeds 7ft. In fact, the largest eagle in the world by wingspan measures 8.5ft across! They often weigh as much as 10-15lbs. Snakes vary quite a bit, but they average about 3ft long and anywhere between 5lbs and 20lbs for weight. The largest snakes in the world can weigh more than 500lbs, but the vast majority of snakes are under 20lbs.

We’re going to award snakes the size advantage.

Eagle vs Snake: Speed and Movement

Eagles can fly about 20mph regularly, but they can dive from the sky at a blazing 200mph. Snakes move around 3mph if they’re lucky, with sidewinders moving up to 15mph.

Eagles have a distinct speed advantage.

Eagle vs Snake: Weapons

Eagles are known for having incredibly sharp, powerful beaks along with 4 long, sharp talons on each foot. They can tear an enemy apart with little trouble. Snakes have multiple ways of killing their foes, too. Some snakes will constrict their enemies and others will envenomate them and wait for them to die.

Snakes have a lot of versatility that makes them more dangerous in a direct comparison.

Eagle vs Snake: Senses

Eagles have an incredible sense of vision that makes it possible for them to find prey from miles away. Moreover, they have a decent sense of hearing that lets them detect sound at a level similar to a human.

Snakes’ senses are rather acute, too. They have special “pits” that help them detect heat and they can flick their tongue to “smell” the air around them. Finding prey is easy for many snakes as long as they can ambush and kill it.

Eagles and snakes both have unique senses that don’t overlap, so we’re going to call this a tie.

Eagle vs Snake: Physical Defenses

Eagles rely on their senses to detect trouble before it starts and then use their great flight speed to get them away from enemies. Snakes can rely on their size, threat displays, and camouflage to keep them safe. Also, smaller snakes can hide in very narrow areas that predators cannot get into.

Snakes have more variety in their defenses, so they get the advantage in this situation.  

Combat Skills of an Eagle and a Snake

The Spectacled cobra is one the big four venomous species that inflict the most snakebites on humans in India. Many specimens exhibit a hood mark with two circular patterns connected by a curved line, evoking the image of spectacles.

Snakes tend to kill with venom or constriction. This cobra uses venom.

©RealityImages/Shutterstock.com

Snakes use two methods to fight. They will either envenomate their prey and wait for it to die, or they will constrict their prey and crush it until it dies. These are very effective methods when their ambush works.

Eagles have simple ways of killing their foes, too. They will crash into prey at high speeds. Then, they will dig their talons into their prey to crush them or pierce vital organs. If the creature is still alive, they will often use their beaks to finish them off, or they can fly into the air and drop the animal.

Both predators are effective, so we’ll leave this section as a tie.  

What Are Key Differences Between an Eagle and a Snake?

Where Do Snakes Live

Snakes can be larger than eagles, but eagles are a lot faster than them.

©Patrick K. Campbell/Shutterstock.com

Eagles are birds and snakes are reptiles; eagles fly and snakes slither on the ground. Some snakes can be larger than eagles, but they’re close in size and weight on average. Eagles are much faster than the fastest snakes. Eagles are ambush predators while snakes can be ambush predators or opportunistic predators.

Also, eagles are warm-blooded and snakes are cold-blooded. Although eagles will often migrate to find food, many snakes will hibernate to survive the cold seasons. Eagles will directly kill their foes, but snakes have to take their time with venom or constriction. These differences show how dissimilar these creatures are from each other.          

Who Would Win in a Fight Between an Eagle and a Snake?

bald eagles perched over water

An eagle would win a fight against a snake.

©FloridaStock/Shutterstock.com

An eagle would win a fight against a snake. That’s not true of every eagle and every snake. For example, a golden eagle is not going to kill a reticulated python or an anaconda. However, eagles are very good at killing average snakes, even the deadliest ones.

In fact, the brown snake eagle is named for its propensity to target the brown snake, boomslangs, and other deadly venomous snakes. The reason is that the snakes swoop down with such speed and from outside the snake’s sensory area so that they are unable to react. Snakes don’t have many ways to survey the skies.

Certainly, some snakes could land a bite or coil around an eagle. However, the eagle would still do immense damage to the snake, possibly killing it, before it dies. Most often, this fight plays out with the eagle swooping in, ripping into the snake’s organs with its talons, and then tearing it apart to swallow easier.

All in all, the eagle has too many advantages over the snake in terms of combat prowess to lose this fight.

Could The Largest Eagle Ever Defeat a Wolf?

yellowstone gray wolf

Gray wolves are ferocious fighters who will not back down from an eagle attack.

©Nagel Photography/Shutterstock.com

Snakes might make for an easy meal for most eagles, but when it comes to battling a wolf, these birds may quickly find themselves outside of their element. Even when the odds are weighed in the eagle’s favor by considering the largest known eagle, the extinct Haast’s eagle, as their contender, this bird’s massive size would still not be enough to overcome the wolf’s incessant attacks. It would take a single strike for any eagle to succeed in defeating a wolf, but unfortunately for the eagle, this is highly unlikely. If the wolf were to sustain a serious injury in the throes of battle it would need only call for back up from the rest of its loyal pack in order to ensure that the eagle would be defeated.


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About the Author

Kyle Glatz is a writer at A-Z-Animals where his primary focus is on geography and mammals. Kyle has been writing for researching and writing about animals and numerous other topics for 10 years, and he holds a Bachelor's Degree in English and Education from Rowan University. A resident of New Jersey, Kyle enjoys reading, writing, and playing video games.

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