Tiny Crab Nearly Drowns a Large Bald Eagle in Impressive Fight

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Written by Kirstin Harrington

Updated: November 10, 2023

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Continue reading for our analysis...

a predator golden eagle with a dangerous look
© elmehdi.ph/Shutterstock.com
Key Points:
  • In the video below, a bald eagle spots a small crab thinking it will be an easy meal, only to be the target of the feisty crab pincers as it puts up a determined fight for its life.
  • Eagles have excellent eyesight, which is what allowed this particular eagle to spot the crab in the water.
  • Crabs are naturally gifted at defense and making themselves difficult prey. Tenacity goes a long way in the fight for survival.

Bald eagles, like other eagles throughout the world, have long been revered as emblems of fortitude, bravery, independence, and longevity. Additionally, the bald eagle is unique to North America, unlike other eagles. In American history, some eagles have attained notoriety.

The elegance and grace of eagles are befitting of their role as America’s national bird. The female eagle is bigger and heavier than the male, as is the case with the majority of raptors. They have a body length of over three feet, a wingspan that can reach seven feet, and an average weight of 12 pounds. The weight of eagles is less than it seems. 

An eagle’s feathers make up most of its body, and since its bones are hollow, they are smaller than the skeletons of mammals. The eyes of an eagle have up to eight times more color-sensitive cones than those of a person. Their eyes, which are on the side of the head, have a broad field of vision.

bald eagle in flight

Bald eagles can hunt over broad areas easily thanks to their large wings, with their wingspan able to reach seven feet.


Bald eagles can soar and hunt over broad areas with little effort thanks to their large wings, relative to other birds. They can go 400 to 500 miles per day when migrating. Bald eagles may seize their prey with the help of their powerful feet and big, sharp talons. While you think this would make them invincible, one crab proves otherwise. 

Pain in a Pinch

Crabs such as the Jonah crab are protected by their shells from the environment and possible predators.


A lone eagle is perching on a rock as waves crash around it. The footage seen below is from a Netflix documentary. This particular eagle was eager to catch food for his mate and was coming up short. Using his pristine vision, the bird spots something in the water. 

Finally thinking he found dinner for his partner, the eagle reaches down with its beak to pick up a little crab. Although each crab species has unique characteristics, the majority of them use their hard shells and pincers as their main means of protection. 

Crabs are shielded by their shells from the environment and hungry predators. Because their pincers are so tightly closed, crabs can take hold of and fend against predators — and that’s exactly what this little guy did! 

When the bird tried to grab him with its beak, the crab started pinching and eventually landed around the eagle’s eye, disrupting his vision. This throws the bird off entirely and almost puts him in a confused state. 

With its little pincers, the crab fends for his life and starts pinching all over the bird’s head. Having enough of the pain, the eagle decides this little meal isn’t worth all of the effort. He shakes the crab off and flies back to the rock in the water to wait for the next opportunity to hunt. 

Is It Normal Behavior for Crabs to Fight Eagles?

Portrait of an American bald eagle

Bald eagles’ excellent eyesight helps them locate prey that other predators don’t or can’t see.


Because crabs have a tough, protective exoskeleton to ward off would-be predators, they often have time to deploy their painful pincers when they are attacked. These two adaptations help crabs survive some attacks and make other animals think twice about even getting started.

Bald eagles become opportunistic hunters when fish isn’t easily available. Their great eyesight allows them to find a lot of prey that other predators would miss, yet this eagle may rethink its next attempt at going after a crab! So, yes, it is normal behavior for a crab to defend itself against the threat of a hungry eagle.

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About the Author

Kirstin is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering animals, news topics, fun places, and helpful tips. Kirstin has been writing on a variety of topics for over five years. She has her real estate license, along with an associates degree in another field. A resident of Minnesota, Kirstin treats her two cats (Spook and Finlay) like the children they are. She never misses an opportunity to explore a thrift store with a coffee in hand, especially if it’s a cold autumn day!

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