8 Birds With Talons (With Pictures)

Examples of birds with talons include eagles, owls, hawks, and vultures. Talons are necessary tools for various actions, such as climbing, digging, perching, protecting, and hunting. However, birds with talons primarily use this natural weaponry to capture and hunt prey.

Let us dive in and learn more about birds equipped with these amazing adaptations.

List of 8 Birds With Talons

  • Bald Eagles
  • Ospreys
  • Peregrine Falcons
  • Red-tailed Hawks
  • Black Vultures
  • Great Horned Owls
  • Harpy Eagles
  • Red Kites

Bald Eagles

a bald eagle hunting mid-air

Height – 3 feet
Talon Length – 2 inches

Bald eagles have four large talons, three facing forward and one talon positioned at the back called the hallux toe.

Each talon is approximately 2 inches long. On average, eagles weigh about 8.8 – 13.2 lbs, with the females being 25% smaller.

Although bald eagles are one of the strongest birds in the world, they mainly go for smaller prey.

Their diet consists of majorly fish, then carrion, and small land mammals. Apart from superb vision abilities, their talons are the primary hunting weapons.

Bald eagles use their feet to grip, cage, and kill prey. Gripping force in bald eagles is in the muscles of their feet rather than the talons.

However, the curvy placement of their talons makes for an excellent cage to keep prey, especially slippery fish.

A bald eagle has an average gripping force of 400 psi, which is about ten times stronger than human grip strength.

Ospreys

a brown and white osprey flying

Height – 2 feet
Talon Length – 1.2 inches

The osprey is another bird with talons specialized in hunting fish.

Although 99% of their diet consists of fish, ospreys can also prey on invertebrates and small land mammals like rabbits or snakes.

The long sharp talons (about 1 inch in length) of ospreys make hunting very successful most of the time. Unlike other raptors, ospreys catch their fish by snatching them right out of the water.

Also, these birds have incredible eyesight (six times better than the average person), which they use to see fish from far away. Sometimes as far as 100 feet from above.

Once they see their potential prey, they’ll plunge legs first into the water with great precision and emerge with fish captured by their curved talons.

Related: Animals With Claws

Peregrine Falcons

peregrine falcon perching on a tree

Height – 1.5 feet
Talon Length – 1.12 inches

As a carnivore and big raptor, the peregrine falcon is another bird with powerful talons.

Peregrine falcons have four talons; three at the front and one flexible talon at the back called the hallux. Each talon can grow up to 1.1 inches long.

Although peregrine falcons do not have the longest talons of other birds of prey, their agility and speed make up for it. Peregrine falcons are the fastest birds in the sky.

They can bust into speeds of 186 mph, diving in and taking their prey by surprise. 

Peregrine falcons prey on over 500 diverse bird species and also on bats if the opportunity presents itself. However, their favorite prey includes ducks, songbirds, shorebirds, pigeons, grebes, and gulls.

Apart from hunting their food, peregrines are not shy of stealing kills like fish and rodents from other birds of prey.

Read Also: Animals With Feathers

Red-tailed Hawks

a red-tailed hawk standing on a wooden railing

Height – 2 to 2.2 feet
Talon Length – 1.33 inches

Red-tailed hawks also have three curved front-facing talons and a hallux. The average length of a red tail’s talon is about 1.33 inches long.

They use their sharp lengthy talons to snatch, stab and tear the flesh of their prey.

Redtail hawks are the largest buteo hawks; they weigh about 1.5 – 3.5 lb and can hunt and lift prey weighing the same. Their diet consists of rodents like squirrels, rabbits, hares, and even other birds.

And because they are such fine hunters, red-tailed hawks are commonly captured and trained to be falconers.

In the US, only juvenile red-tails that are just leaving their nest and are about one year old are legally permitted to be captured.

Black Vultures

big black vulture perching on a tree branch

Height – 1.8 to 2.4 feet
Talon Length – 1 inch

Commonly known as cinereous vultures, they are the largest of all vultures.

Like other birds from the list, black vultures also have talons, but their talons are not as sharp and efficient.

This is one of the reasons why these birds are scavenger birds rather than hunters. Its talons are embedded in 3.1 inches long tarsus.

Even while feasting, the black vulture’s talons are so blunt that they resort to using their beaks to tear up the animal flesh. The vulture’s talons are more nail-like.

Vultures might not be one of the most incredible looking birds of prey to exist, but they do the dirty work of cleaning the ecosystems by consuming rotting biomass ranging from deceased animals to feces.

Great Horned Owls

a great horned owl perching during daytime

Height – 1.4 to 2.1 feet
Talon Length – 2.4 inches 

Great horned owls are one of the largest birds in the owl family. They are also known as tiger owls because of their camouflage-patterned feathers.

And just like tigers on land, great horned owls can be stealthy and super quiet even while flying. Great horned owls have four talons (with a hallux).

Each talon is about 2.4 inches long, while the gripping force power these birds can exert is 300 psi.

With their camouflage skin coupled with their powerful talons and their 4.6-feet wings, when spread, great horned owls are almost as formidable as tigers.

While hunting, great horned eagles can fly as fast as 40 mph – the fastest of all owls.

Other birds of prey can easily outfly this speed, but great horned owls rely on their stealth rather than speed for hunting.

Great horned owls’ prey range from large birds of prey like peregrine falcons to small mammals and rodents like squirrels.

Harpy Eagles

a big gray and white harpy eagle

Height – 2.8 to 3.4 feet
Talon Length – 3 to 4 inches

Speaking of birds with talons, the harpy eagles is a must mention. Harpy eagles are the largest and the strongest eagles to fly in the sky.

These relentless hunters can grow up to 3 feet, while their wingspan is about 6 ft long! They are equipped with four talons like other raptors, and each talon is up to 4 inches long.

These talons are curvy, sharp, and can exert several hundred pounds of force. Capable of crushing the skull of its prey in a matter of seconds!

While hunting, harpy eagles can bust into speeds of 50 mph. Their wings are so powerful and flexible that they can attack prey from above with feet outstretched or from below.

Harpy eagles are scary predators, and they’ll prey on any tree-dwelling mammals, including monkeys and sloths.

Red Kites

large red kite standing on a tree

Height –  2 to 2.2 feet
Talon Length – 1.5 inches

The last members on our list of birds with talons are red kites. A red kite might be elegant with its characteristic fork tails, but they are kind of weak hunters.

They have talons like other birds of prey (sharp and curved), but they are much more scavengers rather than hunters.

Their diet consists of carrions of different animals and roadkill. Although they seldom do, red kites hunt small mammals like voles, earthworms, reptiles, and sometimes young live birds.

Red Kites are very popular in urban cities in the UK so they thrive on a variant of meat like chicken fed to them by house owners or steal food from people in parks.

FAQs on Bird Talons

In this section, we are going to answer some of the most common questions regarding birds’ talons.

What Are Bird Talons Used For?

Bird talons are mainly used for hunting, killing, and capturing prey. However, other talon uses include feeding, fighting, perching, digging, climbing, and also grooming areas where their beaks cannot reach.

An average sharp talon is about 1.17 inches, while many can exert a gripping force of about 300-400 psi. However, the gripping force is generated from the muscles of the toes rather than in the talons themselves.

For the most bird of prey, there are four talons on each toe, three front-facing, and one flexible talon called a hallux. While hunting, the hallux swivels around to face front but when perching, it swivels backward for better grip.

What Are Bird Talons Made Of?

Talons are made up of the same material that is also found in the nail of humans, keratin. This hard covering, besides hunting purposes, serves as a protection for the birds’ feet bones.

The shape, size, color, and thickness of talons vary among the bird species. However, uniquely to each bird species is a continued talons growth throughout their lives.

Besides talons, birds’ feathers and beaks are also made of keratin protein.

What Bird has the Largest Talons?

With a length of up to 4 inches, harpy eagles have the largest talons of all birds with talons. For comparison, a harpy eagle’s talon is larger than a grizzly bear’s claw.

Apart from enormous size, the strenght of their talons is powerful enough to shatter bones.

It is estimated that harpy eagles can apply several hundred pounds of pressure, which is more than double times stronger than the average human grip strenght.

Wrapping it Up

And there you have it, a list of birds with talons. Hopefully, this article was informative.

At the very least, you’ve boosted your bird knowledge and are ready to dominate in the next pub quiz with your friends.

Thank you for reading. If you liked this kind of article, here’s a recommendation for a similar read: Birds That Run Fast

Sources

https://raptor.umn.edu/about-us/news/what-makes-raptor-part-2-sharp-talons

https://www.owlpages.com/owls/articles.php?a=9

https://avianreport.com/bald-eagle-talons/

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/150912-animals-science-largest-claws-talons

https://web.stanford.edu/group/stanfordbirds/text/essays/Raptor_Hunting.html