Can Eagles see in the Dark? (Eagle vision vs. Human vision) | Explained 2023

Eagles from the family Accipitridae are considered one of the deadliest flying predators. We all know that eagles have more advanced vision than humans, which helps them hunt prey during the day.

But what about the night? Can eagles see at night or in the dark? If you have the same doubt, then below is the answer.

Eagles cannot see clearly in the dark. They are diurnal and have poor night vision that allows them to visually discern their surroundings in the dark the same as humans. Their eyes are mainly focused on cones rather than rods, enabling them to perceive things eight times better than humans during the daytime. 

However, some peoples claim that they have witnessed eagles flying and hunting at night. How is this possible? Well, there are more than eighty species of eagles in the world, and some have distinct eyesight depending on the environment.

Therefore, in this post, we have discussed Eagles’ vision at night in detail and other relevant queries. So, let’s begin.  

Can Eagles see in the Dark?

No, eagles don’t have the ability to see distinctly in the dark. They have poor night vision as compared to nocturnal birds. Eagles are diurnal means they are most active during the daylight.

Their eyes are evolved to see precisely and distinguish various colors. Their vision is far better than humans in terms of clarity and color recognition. 

However, at night, their eyesight becomes worse like ours. Night vision acuity can be determined by the number of rods present in the eyes. Rods are sensitive to brightness and help perceive even the slightest light or movement.

Eagles cannot see at night.

Many nocturnal animals or birds have more enormous eyes comprises more rods density, but eagles have more cones than rods like other diurnal birds. They also have small eyes.

With a much higher percentage of cone cells, they can glimpse much better than humans during the daytime.

However, as mentioned earlier, it depends on species-to-species. The American Kestral has 65,000 rods per square mm in their eyes, which assists them in perceiving and distinguishing objects twice a time better than humans.

Also, many wildlife professionals have seen adult eagles feeding and hunting in the dark. According to the researchers, some species of eagles have well-developed rods that qualify them to discern a bit better in the dark.

Also, they can perceive a more comprehensive range of the electromagnetic spectrum, including ultraviolet light. Many small animals like rats urinate to distinguish their territories.

Hence, eagles can sense it through ultraviolet vision and recognize a glimpse of significant movements by their prey during the full-moon night. These vision abilities help them to hunt even in the dark. 

In a nutshell, some adult eagles can see one step ahead at night but not as good as owls.

Also, eagles cannot notice very far in the dark. Even they witness fewer stars at night as compared to owls or us. Eagles primarily rest at night in their nest.

They take short duration naps, and while sleeping, they hide their heads under the wings. Therefore, it is unusual to see an eagle flying or hunting in the dark.

Do Eagles have good eyesight?

Among all birds, eagles have the best eyesight. They are strictly diurnal and have an outstanding vision that can perceive a wide range of electromagnetic spectrum from 315 nm to 700 nm. It includes a vast combination of UV-A, blue, green, and red colors.

Their eyesight has the ability to see clearly in daylight at an ultra-high-definition. Like all birds, eagles also have an excellent long-range vision that can catch a 3 mm insect from the top of a 20 m tree.

Below we have attached an image that illustrates the difference between long-range human vision and eagle vision. 

This may be how this squirrel would look to a human and an eagle

As represented in the picture, eagles have unbelievable zoom ability. Not only this, but their eyes also comprise more rods and cones compared to us.

According to the study, an eagle has around a million cones per mm portion of the retina, far greater than humans with approximately 200,000 cones per mm.

By having five times more cones than that of the human eye, eagles can see the surrounding about 2.24 times as far and clear with more color shades during daytime. However, the superiority only lasts long from dawn till dusk. At night, eagles cannot see at all like humans. 

Another interesting fact on eagles’ eyesight is that they can use both monocular and binocular vision depending on the situation. Whereas humans have only binocular vision.

Do Eagles see in color? (Eagle Color Vision)

Eagles can see and distinguish more color shades than humans. They are tetrachromats which means the cones in their eyes react to UV-A, blue, green, and red color from wavelength 315 nm to 700 nm. It empowers them to differentiate various color variations with ultraviolet light invisible to the human eye.

what colors can birds see
Eagles can see colors more than us
Credits | Klaus Schmitt

The tendency to sense ultraviolet light helps them to recognize the gender of their species and urine bodily traces left by their prey. Being tetrachromatic allows eagles to discern the various shades of one color. It grants them superiority against the human vision.

According to a new study analysis on different species, eagles have a powerful lens in their eyes that assists them to quickly change the focus from nearby entities to faraway objects and vice versa. Additionally, they have five times more cones than humans and can glimpse the world in more detail, colors and focus.

How far can an Eagle see (Maximum distance)

Eagles can see twice times as far as humans can. They have two focal points and can use both monocular and binocular vision to view objects at long distances. According to various studies, an eagle can focus on its prey more than three miles away.

How a distant dragonfly might look to a human and an eagle

Their eyes are eight times better than ours, and during the daytime, they can spot their prey like snakes from 3 miles or more. 

Mathematical calculations:

  • 3 miles = 4.82 km
  • 3 miles = 5280 yards
  • 3 miles = 15840 feet
  • 3 miles = 4820 m

Hence, eagles can focus on objects at more than 4.82 km or 15840 yards with clarity that is much better than humans.

Eagle vision vs Human vision

Eagle Vision Human Vision
Are tetrachromats Are trichromats
Cannot see clearly in the dark Cannot see clearly in the dark
Has an ability to perceive ultraviolet light Doesn’t have the ability to perceive ultraviolet light
Can spot objects from far distances with clarity Cannot spot objects from far distances with clarity

Here, we conclude our article on “Can Eagles see in the dark,” along with other queries. We hope that you like reading this post. We will be back with another article. Till then, stay tuned with us and read the extra discussion below.

All about Bald Eagles-

Bald Eagles are the subspecies of sea eagles primarily found in Canada, Alaska, and Northern Mexico. They are famous for their tremendous vision and fish hunting.

Anyone can easily recognize them with dark brown feathers, a white head and tail, and a wingspan of approximately 2 m. Bald eagles have bright yellow beaks, feet, and irises.

They have unbelievable 20/5 vision means what we see from 5 feet the same eagles can see at 20 feet away.

Can Bald Eagles see in the dark?

Ans. Like other eagles, bald eagles cannot see clearly in the dark. They usually take rest or sleep at night. They are diurnal, and their eyesight works best during the daytime.

How far can a Bald Eagle see?

Ans. Bald eagles have a great vision and can see twice as far as humans. They can easily spot an entity (the size of a rabbit) more than four km away during the daytime. Also, they practice a locate and catching fish from the sea, where refraction plays a significant role.

Frequently Asked Questions-

Q1. Can Eagles see stars?

Ans. Yes, eagles can see stars but not much as humans.

Q2. How far can a golden eagle see?

Ans. A golden eagle can see and identify its prey more than three miles away. 


Image by GoodFon, Journey North

Vision: An In-Depth Look at Eagle Eyes by Journey North

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