Eagle Ray (Various Species)

Eagle Ray – Worth knowing about the Eagle Ray

The eagle ray (Aetobatus narinari) belongs to the class of the cartilaginous fish (Chondrichthyes), of the order Myliobatiformes, the family Myliobatidae, and the genus Aetobatus. These are large rays comprising 20 species in four genera.

The eagle ray is also called an emblematic animal because its image is liked to be used as an illustration in all kinds of texts.

They also love to perform majestic and impressive ballets. Sometimes they are also compared to flying birds. (Hence, “eagle” is in the name.) Even their protruding snout resembles an eagle’s beak or a duckbill. The animals are very active and swim around almost constantly, 24 hours a day. Most other ray species lie on the bottom or half under the sand. They are social and like to travel in groups, consisting of tens to even more than 100 animals. They sometimes come close to the water surface.

Specific feature

  • They usually have a blue or black body with white patches.
  • Their swimming capacities are so excellent that they even shoot up to a few meters above the water surface. They do this mainly to get rid of parasites on their body, or to deceive an enemy. It has even happened that such a jumping ray ended up in a boat.
  • Unlike the other rays, the eagle ray has a long tail. This serves as a kind of feeler to the back and is extra handy because the eyes of the eagle ray are only directed forward.
  • Their wings have a wingspan of up to 7m (23ft).
  • Their size varies between 0.5m and 5m. The females are a lot bigger than the males because they have to carry the rather heavy young during pregnancy. At the height of pregnancy, the mother, therefore, has a very round belly.
  • An adult, large eagle ray can easily weigh 230kg.
  • Their slender, whip-like tail easily grows up to 2 meters in length.
  • Their sense of smell and eyesight are excellent for detecting prey and avoiding enemies. They also perceive changes in the environment such as pressure and temperature.
  • They live in schools of 3 to 50 animals.
  • The eagle rays are often compared to the stingrays.
  • This species is rarely fished because the quality of the meat is not good. Anglers sometimes want to try it because this animal fights an extremely fierce battle.
  • An eagle ray can live up to 25 years old.

Pictures of rays

Sting Ray
Sting Ray
Jumping Eagle Ray
Jumping Eagle Ray
Brown Eagle Ray
Brown Eagle Ray
Group of Rays
Group of Rays
Manta Ray
Manta Ray
Ray on the Bottom
Ray on the Bottom

Where can you find Eagle Ray?

This ray is found worldwide and especially in the open water of the tropical and subtropical areas. In the summer they mainly reside in the area from North Carolina and Florida to South Brazil. They reside in the Gulf of Mexico, in the Caribbean, and along the coasts of South Arika. They also like to swim around the Hawaiian Islands (also near Japan) and the Red Sea.

The eagle ray prefers soft soil consisting of sand, gravel, and mud. It is abundant in warm beach areas as well as in the mangrove swamps in tropical regions.

They prefer to live in coral reefs and bays at a depth of 60 meters and they like water with a tropical temperature.

Their nutrition

  • mollusks
  • bristle worms
  • crabs
  • shrimps
  • oysters
  • echinoderms
  • snails
  • squids
  • octopuses
  • occasionally they also eat smaller fish

In search of food, they use their special snouts to dig in the sand to expose potential prey. To eat, they use their upper and lower tooth plates with which they first crack their prey. They also have 6 to 7 rows of papillae at the top of the mouth that allows them to filter out and spit out unnecessary residues (such as bones and scales).

Usually, they eat in groups in nearby sandy plains during the flood.

Is an Eagle Ray poisonous?

An Eagle Ray is quite shy and therefore does not come close to divers. It is therefore difficult for these divers to approach them, for example, to take a picture.

Their tail is poisonous and can cause serious injuries. It is only deadly if someone is hit in the chest. Usually, it concerns wounds on arms and legs that are very painful, but that will disappear after a while.

They also have poisonous spines on the top of the tail base that they can use to defend themselves.

How do these animals mate?

Usually, the eagle rays are fertile at the age of 4 to 6 years

When the mating season (usually in the middle of summer) arrives, a mass of males chases one female. The animal that bites on a female and gets her on the back then becomes the mating partner. The pairing itself takes a maximum of 90 seconds. The eggs are then fed out in the mother’s body.

Mating takes place during the flood.

The females usually jump out of the water when they feel they are about to give birth. When they land back on the surface of the water, the young can be pushed out. An eagle ray is ovoviviparous and so the eggs develop in the uterus. However, there is no placental connection to the mother and the eggs receive their nutrition through a yolk sac.

The gestation period is normally 12 months, but in rare cases, it can also be less than 8 months. The female gives birth to 1 to a maximum of 4 young.

The young themselves are quite large and already have a wingspan of approximately 50cm and a weight between 1 and 3kg. It may seem cruel, but after birth, the mother no longer looks after her young.

The enemies of this ray

The eagle ray does not have many enemies. The shark, in particular, poses a life threat to them. This usually occurs in the birth season when the shark hunts the ray and then eats the animal’s young (or even an adult eagle ray). Especially the silvertip sharks, lemon sharks, tiger sharks, bull sharks, and the great hammerhead sharks are their greatest enemies.

See also my other blog about sharks.

Endangered species?

Due to the small number of young that are born, as well as the fact that they enjoy swimming in schools and living in coastal habitats, the rays are quite endangered. They are often caught in the nets of coastal fishing. The pressure is highest in Southeast Asia in particular.

Eagle rays are also eaten in many tropical countries.

Now the animal is listed as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List. In Florida and the Maldives, the animals are already protected. They also enjoy partial protection in Australia.


Hopefully, you found this an interesting article. If you still have questions, comments, or additional information, you can always let me know. Thanks in advance!

For those interested: I also wrote an article about the Southern Stingray.

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