The Only Bird Species Known To Prey On Humans Is The?
Answer: Crowned Eagle
Around the world, you’ll find quite a few large birds of prey; fearsome creatures that function as high-level to apex predators in their domains with sharp talons, sharp beaks, and broad wings. The most that humans have to fear from nearly all these predatory birds, however, is a minor tussle if they venture too close to their nests. As fearsome and predatory as most eagles, hawks, falcons, and other birds of prey are, they care little for interacting with humans and rarely attack one unless they are defending their nesting sites.
All, that is, save for the Crowned Eagle. Found in a wide band across sub-Saharan Africa, the birds are fierce hunters that live off a diet that is 90 percent mammalian and includes monkeys, ungulates, and occasionally, humans. In fact, the Crowned Eagle—thanks to several recorded instances of the birds attacking (and even carrying away) children as well as the discovery of human skulls in their nesting sites—is considered the only living bird known to regard humans as prey.
What’s even more interesting is that this behavior isn’t a recent development in the history of Africa. In 1924, quarry workers found a fossilized Australopithecus africanus skull in a quarry in Taung, South Africa. The skull, belonging to a young child, bears distinctive puncture marks that are highly indicative of attack by a bird of prey similar in size to a modern Crowned Eagle—which leads scientists to believe that ~2.5 million years ago, the Crowned Eagle (or its predecessor) was already hunting smaller hominid species and their children across the African continent.
Image courtesy of Derek Keats.