National Bird of Mexico: The Golden Eagle and Its Symbolism

You might have noticed that the Mexican flag bears a golden eagle, which also happens to be the national bird of Mexico.

The golden eagle holds a special significance as a symbol of Mexican history and culture.

The Aztecs, one of the ancient civilizations that inhabited Mexico, revered the Golden Eagle as a powerful and divine creature.

They believed that the bird was a messenger of the gods and that it could carry the souls of warriors to the afterlife. 

Today, the Golden Eagle remains a symbol of strength and freedom in Mexican culture and is featured on the country’s coat of arms and flag.

mational Bird of Mexico
Close up portrait of a Golden Eagle

However, some sources claim that the crested caracara is the actual national bird of Mexico. How did that come to be? I’ll be discussing that and more in this article. Let’s begin! 

What is the national bird of Mexico? (Golden Eagle or Crested Caracara)

The national bird of Mexico is a topic of confusion among many.

Some citizens believe that the crested caracara is actually the country’s official bird, despite the golden eagle’s presence on the national flag.

It does have some merit.

For example, Mexican ornithologist Rafael Martín del Campo has pointed out that the plumage of the birds depicted in Aztec codices does not match that of the Golden Eagle, which is thought to have been scarce in the region at the time. 

Expanding on the hypothesis of Rafael Martin, a Mexican magazine also pointed out that the golden eagle has always been very rare in Mexico.

It’s most common in Canada and the US and rarely goes as far south as Mexico. There’s evidence pointing to the fact that things were the same in the Aztec period.

Crested caracara, on the other hand, has always been quite common in the country. Combined with the fact that it holds significance in the Aztec pictograms, the national bird of Mexico might well be the crested caracara.

Crested caracaras are often thought to be Mexico’s national birds

Despite these arguments and beliefs, the official national bird of Mexico is the golden eagle.

No matter which side of this argument one falls on, the golden eagle remains a powerful national symbol of Mexico for strength and freedom for the people.

Facts About the Golden Eagle, Mexico’s National Bird

1. The Golden Eagle is one of the largest birds of prey in the world

It can grow up to 3 feet (0.92 meters) tall, have a wingspan of over 6 feet (1.83 meters), and can weigh anywhere from 7 to 14 pounds (3.2 to 6.4 kilograms).

2. They have very sharp talons

Their talons are strong enough to kill large prey, including deer and goats.

A golden eagle’s talons can exert around 440 pounds of pressure per square inch, approximately 15 times more than is exerted by the human hand!

3. They can be found in many parts of the world

Golden Eagles can be found all over the world, including North America, Northern Africa, Europe, and Asia.

4. They are monogamous and can mate for life, with pairs staying together for many years.

Golden Eagles tend to mate for life and stay monogamous for many years.

5. They have excellent eyesight.

A golden eagle that weighs 10 pounds has eyes about the same size as a human being who weighs 200 pounds. As such, their eyes occupy most of the space in their head.

In terms of visual acuity, their eyesight is anywhere from 4 to 8 times stronger than ours, letting them spot their prey a mile away.

However, they can see no better than we can in poorly lit conditions.

Golden eagles can be found all over the world

6. They are known for their powerful flying abilities

While their average flight speed is “only” 28-32 miles an hour (45-51.5 kilometers an hour), they can reach speeds of up to 200 miles per hour when diving for prey.

Golden eagles are apex predators, meaning they are at the top of the food chain and have no natural predators.

They are highly adaptable birds and can live in a variety of habitats, including mountains, deserts, and forests.

7. They are considered one of the most intelligent bird species in the world

Golden eagles have been observed exhibiting problem-solving skills, strategic thinking, and an ability to navigate long distances using landmarks and the Earth’s magnetic field.

Research has also shown that they have a remarkable memory and can remember and recognize individual humans or animals that they have encountered in the past, even after long periods of time.

8. They’re protected in many places around the world

They are a protected species in many countries due to habitat loss and hunting, and conservation efforts are being made to ensure their survival.

Facts about the Crested Caracara

1. They’re pretty large

On average, they are around 19-23 inches (48-58 cm) in length with a wingspan of 4-5 feet (1.2-1.5 meters).

Adult crested caracaras typically weigh around 1.5-3.5 pounds (0.7-1.6 kg).

2. The crested caracara is also known as the “Mexican eagle” or “Mexican buzzard.”

Despite being called the Mexican eagle, though, it actually belongs to the falcon family.

3. It builds its own nests

It is the only member of the falcon family which builds its own nest using collected materials. All the other falcons use old nests left by other birds. 

Unlike other birds of prey, the crested caracara feeds on a diverse diet that includes fruits, insects, and carrion, as well as small mammals and birds.

A couple of Crested caracaras

4. They’re monogamous and form families

Like the golden eagle of Mexico, crested caracaras are monogamous and form long-term pairs. They build their nests in trees, bushes, or on the ground, and both parents help to care for their young.

5. They take their time while flying

While they are strong fliers, crested caracaras typically fly at a leisurely pace. Their flying speed is estimated to be around 20-40 miles per hour (32-64 km/h). They can fly at high altitudes for long periods of time.

6. It has a distinctive appearance

Crested Caracaras feature a black crest on their head and a bright orange-yellow beak. Their plumage is mostly black and white, with some brown and gray feathers.

7. They adapt easily

They are very adaptable birds and can live in a variety of habitats, including deserts, grasslands, and forests.

8. They display unique behaviors

Crested Caracaras are known for their unique behavior of stomping on the ground or grass to flush out insects or other prey.

9. It is a threatened species

They are also a protected species in many countries due to habitat loss and hunting.

Crested caracara standing on a log

Why is the Golden Eagle Mexico’s national bird?

The Golden Eagle is a powerful and majestic bird of prey that has been revered by many ancient cultures around the world, including the Aztecs.

In Mexican folklore and mythology, the Golden Eagle was believed to be a sacred bird associated with the sun and the god Huitzilopochtli.

The eagle is also one of the most important national symbols of Mexico’s national identity and appears on the country’s coat of arms, flag, and currency.

Its depiction on the Mexican flag is said to represent the ancient Aztec legend of an eagle perched on a cactus with a snake in its talons.

A golden eagle depicted on the Mexican flag

This is believed to have signaled the founding of the city of Tenochtitlan (present-day Mexico City) and the beginning of the Aztec empire.

Therefore, the Golden Eagle’s cultural and historical significance played a key role in its selection as Mexico’s national bird.

What does the Golden Eagle represent?

Here are some of the meanings and representations associated with the Golden Eagle:

1. Power and strength

The Golden Eagle’s size, speed, and hunting abilities have made it a symbol of power and strength in many cultures. It is also a symbol of courage, determination, and resilience.

2. Freedom and independence

The Golden Eagle’s soaring flight and ability to navigate vast distances have made it a symbol of freedom and independence.

3. Nobility and prestige

The Golden Eagle’s regal appearance and hunting prowess have made it a symbol of nobility and prestige.

4. Spirituality and divinity

In some cultures, the Golden Eagle is seen as a messenger of the gods or a symbol of the divine.

For example, the ancient Aztecs believed the Golden Eagle was a sacred bird associated with the sun and the god Huitzilopochtli.

A golden eagle soaring in the sky

Why do others believe that the Crested Caracara is the national bird of Mexico?

There are several reasons why some people believe that the Crested Caracara is the national state bird of Mexico.

Firstly, the Crested Caracara, sometimes called the “Mexican eagle”, has been associated with Mexican culture and history for centuries and has been depicted in various forms of art and literature. 

Secondly, some ornithologists and historians have suggested that the bird on the Mexican flag is actually the Crested Caracara, rather than the Golden Eagle.

This is because the plumage of the bird depicted on the flag does not match that of a Golden Eagle, which was rare in the region during the time when the flag was created.

Some researchers have even suggested that the Golden Eagle was not known to the ancient Aztecs as it was (and remains) quite rare in Mexico and that they may have instead depicted the Crested Caracara in their artwork and mythology.

FUN FACT – An interesting fact is that, although the Golden Eagle is the national bird of Mexico, there is one beautiful bird that is called TOH Bird. Mot Mot or Clock Bird (from his long tale that looks like the pendulum of a clock) was considered a sacred bird for the Mayan Civilization.

Mot Mot Bird in the Sacred Cenote
Toh Bird in Chichen Itza

Frequently Asked Questions About the Mexican National Bird

🇲🇽 What bird is on the flag of Mexico?

The bird on the flag of Mexico is a Golden Eagle.

The eagle is depicted perched on top of a cactus plant, holding a snake in its beak and talons.

🦅 What is Mexico’s national animal?

Mexico’s national animal is the golden eagle.

It is a powerful and majestic bird of prey that is found throughout much of the northern hemisphere.

🟡 Is the Golden Eagle featured in Mexican currency?

Yes, the Golden Eagle is featured in some Mexican currency.

The eagle is an important national symbol of Mexico and appears on the country’s coat of arms, so it is not uncommon to see it on official government documents and coins.

📅 Do Golden Eagles live in Mexico all year?

Yes, Golden Eagles can be found in Mexico throughout the year.

Mexico is part of the eagle’s range, which extends from North America to Eurasia, and the birds are known to live in various habitats across the country, including deserts, grasslands, and mountains. 

Some Golden Eagles may migrate to different parts of their range depending on things like food availability and weather, whereas others remain in the same area year-round.

Conclusion: National Bird of Mexico

With its majestic appearance and impressive hunting abilities, the Golden Eagle is a remarkable creature that has captured the hearts of people all around the world.

In Mexico, the bird is an important symbol of strength, courage, and independence, and is featured on the country’s flag as well as its coat of arms.

Whether you’re a birdwatcher, a nature lover, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of the natural world, the Golden Eagle is a bird that is sure to fascinate you.

If you ever get the chance to visit Mexico, keep an eye out for this majestic bird and appreciate its beauty and significance in person.