The 10 Strongest Birds on Earth and How Much They Can Lift

Written by Jennifer Haase
Updated: October 31, 2023
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Key Points:

  • Harpy Eagles have a recorded lift capacity of up to 40 pounds!
  • Bald Eagles can usually lift between five and six pounds but have been known to lift an object up to 10 pounds if they come at it with high speed.
  • The four birds with the strongest lift capacity are all different types of eagles.
This is our list of the top 10 strongest birds!

Some birds are incredibly strong for their size and can lift surprisingly heavy objects. But, do you know which birds can handle the heaviest loads? These amazing birds are among the strongest in the world based on their ability to lift animals and objects, sometimes heavier than their own body weight.

If you know anything about birds, it’s no surprise that the ones on our list are all birds of prey. It’s hard to match the incredible strength of eagles, vultures, falcons, hawks, and owls. And it’s not easy for the prey of these birds to survive an attack of such power.

Let’s explore the 10 strongest birds on Earth and how much they can lift!

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1. Harpy Eagle

Harpy Eagle looking back to the left

Harpy eagles can lift sloths and monkeys over 30 lbs each.

©Chepe Nicoli/Shutterstock.com

The harpy eagle is by far one of the strongest birds on Earth. This large bird of prey lives in tropical forests throughout Central and South America. Harpy eagles are apex predators (at the top of the food chain), with a recorded lift capacity of up to 18 kg (40 lbs). Females are generally larger and more powerful than males, with the largest individuals capable of lifting prey weighing even more.

What in the world would a harpy eagle lift that heavy? This eagle dines on mammals larger than many other birds can handle. In addition to other animals in their diet, harpy eagles eat sloths and monkeys over 13 kg (30 lbs) each.

A significant part of a harpy eagle’s power comes from its massive talons. Each of these talons is roughly the size of a human hand, and they’re incredibly sharp. Harpy eagle talons are very strong and can crush bones with ease.

2. Bald Eagle

Largest Eagles in the World: American Bald Eagle

Bald eagles hunt mainly fish but can lift much larger animals.

©Dennis W Donohue/Shutterstock.com

Bald eagles are among the largest, most powerful raptors in North America. These birds are impressively large, with a massive wingspan of up to eight feet, and they don’t just look strong — they are mighty, too.

Though their diet consists mainly of fish, bald eagles have the strength to lift small deer and calves up to eight pounds with their massive talons. In addition, they can injure animals much larger than themselves, such as bears and elk.

The bald eagle is the national bird of the USA and is respected worldwide for its incredible strength!

3. Steller’s Sea Eagle

Largest Eagles in the World: Stellar’s Sea Eagle

Steller’s sea eagles are huge raptors with a wingspan of up to 9 feet!

©nnattalli/Shutterstock.com

The Steller’s sea eagle is a massive bird and one of the largest sea eagles in the world. This eagle typically outweighs the harpy eagle by at least a pound. It lifts animals — like sea lions — weighing up to 20 pounds.

As with other eagles, the Steller’s sea eagle has a forceful grip and sharp talons that greatly add to its strength. All the better to catch and carry the salmon they love to eat! Similar to other fish-eating birds of prey, Steller’s sea eagles have hooked talons with spikey soles on their feet. This advantage keeps fish from slipping out of the eagle’s strong grasp.

In addition to its amazing grip, the Steller’s sea eagle has a massive wingspan of up to 9 feet, making it a fierce predator in the air.

4. Golden Eagle

Largest Eagles in the World: Golden Eagle

Golden eagles are among the biggest eagles on Earth.

©Vladimir Kogan Michael/Shutterstock.com

Golden eagles are plentiful across the Northern Hemisphere and are powerful birds in the eagle family. These birds can lift as much as bald eagles and sometimes even more — up to 10 lbs!

Golden eagles have an enormous wingspan of up to 8 feet, with an average weight of up to 15 pounds. The heaviest golden eagle on record was a female weighing nearly 17 lbs. Female golden eagles typically weigh 2-5 lbs more than males.

Golden eagle talons measure up to 4 inches in length and have crushing strength. Their prey includes small to medium mammals (live or carrion) like rabbits, hares, squirrels, prairie dogs, fish, and birds.

5. Great Horned Owl

why do owls hoot at night

The great horned owl can lift up to four times its body weight!

©Imran Ashraf/Shutterstock.com

Great horned owls are among the strongest owls on Earth. They live throughout North and South America, hunting for small mammals such as rabbits and rodents. But don’t let their diet of small animals fool you; they are large and very strong birds.

An average-sized adult male great horned owl weighs up to 5.5 lbs and can lift four times its body weight! With a wingspan of 5 feet and sharp talons up to 3 inches in length, great horned owls carry their prey with ease.

6. Gyrfalcon

Types of Falcon Birds

Gyrfalcons live in the Arctic and lift up to twice their weight.

©John Hancock/Shutterstock.com

The gyrfalcon is the biggest falcon on Earth. This bird of prey lifts up to 5 lbs. That number might seem significantly less than what some of the other birds on this list can lift, but that’s quite a lot compared to the gyrfalcon’s own weight. The average gyrfalcon weighs around 3 lbs. That means an average healthy adult can lift nearly twice her own weight.

The largest gyrfalcons have a wingspan of up to 6.6 feet, and their razor-sharp talons can measure up to 3.1 inches in length, making them one of the most imposing predators in the Arctic.

Gyrfalcons hunt mainly birds, including ptarmigan, waterfowl, pheasants, and even other falcons.

7. Eurasian Eagle-Owl

Close-up of Eurasian Eagles Owl, sitting in a tree.

Eurasian eagle-owls lift an average of 4-5 lbs.

©emranashraf/Shutterstock.com

The Eurasian eagle-owl is native to Eurasia. Europeans often refer to this bird of prey as the Uhu. Female Eurasian eagle-owls are larger than the males, growing up to 30 inches tall and weighing up to 3 lbs.

How much can a Eurasian eagle-owl lift? This bird can carry a pound or two more than its own weight – around 4-5 pounds.

With an average wingspan of 8.2 feet, Eurasian eagle-owls are among the largest owls in the world. Also, their sharp talons can measure up to 2.8 inches in length, making them formidable predators.

8. White-Tailed Eagle

Largest Eagles in the World: White-tailed Eagle

White-tailed eagles weigh up to 10 lbs with a wingspan of up to 8 feet.

©Jerry Bouwmeester/Shutterstock.com

The white-tailed eagle is also native to Eurasia and is the largest European eagle breed. Similar to the bald eagle, this bird of prey lifts weight up to around 8 lbs.

Among eagles worldwide, the white-tailed eagle ranks fourth in size and weight. However, this eagle ranks first for wingspan size out of all current eagle breeds.

White-tailed eagles have a wingspan of up to 8 feet and weigh up to 10 lbs or more. Their dynamic wingspan and sharp, hooked talons give them a great deal of strength, but these eagles spend much of their day perched. The white-tailed eagle might appear to be on an all-day break, but it’s always looking for more food. Sometimes that means stealing another eagle’s catch!

White-tailed eagles are impressive birds that live along the coast and hunt mainly fish and water birds.

9. Philippine Eagle

Largest Eagles in the World: Philippine Eagle

The Philippine eagle lifts up to 6 lbs.

©Michal Lukaszewicz/Shutterstock.com

Philippine eagles are also among the strongest birds in the world. As with most eagles, they can lift an average of nearly 6 lbs or more. The average Philippine eagle weighs up to 18 lbs and has a wingspan of up to 7 feet.

The Philippine eagle currently ranks as the longest eagle in existence, based on the length of the average adult female. Adult females grow up to 3.5 feet. The biggest female Philippine eagle on record was 3.8 feet in length.

The Philippine eagle is an apex predator and an opportunistic hunter. Also, it hunts mainly via still-hunting (watching for prey from one spot) and perch-hunting (moving from perch to perch). In addition, this strong eagle uses its powerful talons to kill animals like squirrels, snakes, rodents, lizards, and birds.

The Philippine eagle is the national bird of the Philippines. It is also the symbol of the Philippine Eagle Foundation.

The total number of these huge eagles is declining. There are only about 400-500 pairs left in the wild.

10. Red-Tailed Hawk

Animals That Molt - Red Tailed Hawk

The red-tailed hawk is one of the strongest birds on Earth.

©Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.com

Nicknamed “red-tail,” the red-tailed hawk is a large bird of prey found throughout North and South America. It’s one of the largest hawks on Earth! Red-tailed hawks weigh up to 3.5 lbs with a wingspan of up to 4.5 feet. Their powerful talons can measure up to 3 inches in length, making them deadly predators.

Red-tailed hawks can lift up to 5 lbs, including their favorite prey. These carnivorous hawks hunt squirrels, rabbits, and rodents. However, as opportunistic hunters, red-tailed hawks eat any small birds, fish, mammals, and reptiles they can find.

Strong Birds That Rarely Lift Anything

Largest Birds of Prey - California Condor

The California condor is one of the strongest birds in the world, but it doesn’t hunt live animals or carry its food.

©MTKhaled mahmud/Shutterstock.com

You might wonder why we didn’t include two of the largest birds in the world — vultures and a type of vulture called a condor — in this list. While there’s no doubt that these birds are huge and strong, they mainly scavenge dead animals as food. Therefore, vultures and condors don’t need to lift animals or heavy objects because they feed right where the dead animal lies.

Vulture and condor talons and beaks are quite weak compared to other birds of prey. They’re strong in other ways but don’t have the same powerful grip for lifting.

More Birds With Above-Average Strength

There are many other birds we didn’t mention that have above-average strength. If we expanded our list, we would include more powerful birds like the martial eagle, crowned eagle, and osprey (a sea hawk).

Parrots aren’t as big and powerful as birds of prey, but these birds are very strong! Did you know that the macaw parrot has a bite force of up to 400 psi? That’s a bird with a potent and dangerous beak!

When it comes to comparing strengths between all the bird species, there are certain factors to consider. Their size is a good indication of their strength, of course.

Can you think of other factors that make a bird strong? Keep reading to learn more!

What Makes Birds So Strong?

Sea Eagle in flight over water

The size of a bird’s wingspan helps determine its strength.

©iStock.com/Neil_Burton

There are a few ways to determine how strong a bird is. One way is to look at the size of the bird. The larger the bird, the more powerful its body. Another way to determine a bird’s strength is to look at its wingspan. A wider wingspan helps a bird carry more weight through the air. Finally, you can look at the size of a bird’s beak and claws. When their beaks and claws are huge, it’s easier for birds to capture and carry larger prey.

There are additional factors that make birds strong compared to other animals. One factor is their skeletal system. Birds have lightweight but strong skeletons that help them fly. Another factor to consider is their feathers. Feathers help birds stay light while also providing insulation and protection from the elements. In addition, birds have potent muscles that help them fly and stay warm. All of these factors contribute to making birds some of the strongest animals on Earth.

With their powerful talons and beaks, birds of prey are among the strongest predators in the world. Eagles, hawks, and owls are a few examples of these powerful birds. So, the next time you see birds soaring through the sky, remember that they’re not just flying – they are also showing off their strength.

Summary of the 10 Strongest Birds on Earth

RankBird
1Harpy Eagle
2Bald Eagle
3Stellar’s Sea Eagle
4Golden Eagle
5Great Horned Owl
6Gyrfalcon
7Eurasian Eagle Owl
8White-tailed Eagle
9Philippine Eagle
10Red-tailed Hawk

Honorable Mention: Other Strong Birds

Largest Birds of Prey - Andean Condor

The Andean Condor can change the color of their skin according to their mood.

©BearFotos/Shutterstock.com

There are over 10,000 species of described birds throughout the world. It is estimated that this number might even be double that. Birds come in all sizes, from the tiny bee hummingbird, only found in Cuba, to the largest bird, the common ostrich. Strength is relative to each size and factors vary from species to species but there are some birds that have incredible strength that rank far above others.

Many of these impressive examples of bird power are listed above but there are a few additional examples of strength in feathers that deserve to be acknowledged. Some of these may have strong kicks, and some may have strong bites, but each one has its own particular brand of strength.

  • Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) – this massive South American vulture is the only member of its genus. Endemic to the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Coasts of South America, these raptors are scavengers and primarily feed on carrion. They not only have strong legs and feet but have incredibly strong beaks that they use to tear open their food. They are also the heaviest of the flying birds, with weights that can reach up to 33 pounds, and an impressive wingspan of 10.5 feet. They are considered the strongest vultures on Earth.
  • Cassowary (Casuarius) – this large terrestrial, flightless bird is native to the tropical forests of northeastern Australia, New Guinea, and the Aru Islands. Standing at a height of almost six feet tall, and weighing up to 130 pounds, it is considered the world’s most dangerous bird. They have a reputation for being deadly and their feet are considered weapons. According to ornithologist Ernest Thomas Gilliard, who wrote in his book 1958 book Living Birds of the World, ‘The inner or second of the three toes is fitted with a long, straight, murderous nail which can sever an arm or eviscerate an abdomen with ease. There are many records of natives being killed by this bird.’ They are the only known birds worldwide, along with the ostrich, to have killed humans.
  • Ostrich (Struthio camelus) – the heaviest and largest of the bird family, this is another deadly, flightless bird that is two times larger than the cassowary. They are capable of reaching up to nine feet, with weights ranging from 200 to 287 pounds, and have a kick so powerful that it can induce organ injury and even death, to both humans and animals alike. Adding to their power is their speed – they are also the fastest land birds, capable of running at speeds of up to 43 miles per hour.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Chris Hill/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Jennifer Haase is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on plants, pets, and places of interest. Jennifer has been writing professionally about plants and animals for over 14 years. A resident of Nebraska, Jennifer enjoys gardening, floral design, nutrition studies, and being a cat mama.

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