The Iberian imperial eagle is large, with females measuring two meters in wingspan with a weight of 4 kilos. Armed with a powerful beak and sharp talons, its bones entirely covered in feathers, the imperial eagle is adapted to catching animals no larger than a hare. Adult plumage is completely dark in color, but it can be identified by region according to differences in the white spots on the front edge of its wings and upper shoulders. The plumage of imperial eagles varies during the first year, changing from reddish during the first year to yellowish-brown the second, and finally cream and dark-colored feathers in its third and fourth year.
Females lay between 1 and 4 eggs in a large nest located at the top of an old oak or cork oak. This comes after a spectacular courtship and pairing ritual, in which flights and aerial acrobatics are displayed, and the eagles call out to each other back and forth. After 45 days of incubation, the chicks are born, but it is rare for them all to survive in the nest. Their first flights occur in July and August, although the young remain close to the nest until September, when the dispersal phase begins. It is a long journey through distant territories that allows the imperial eagles to acquire strength, skill and experience, but during which they also face many dangers and threats that prove fatal for of many of them.
They live primarily in the forested areas of the Mediterranean mountains, as far as possible from the presence of humans. In this habitat, a large number of important species coexist with the imperial eagles, such as the black vulture and the Iberian lynx, among other more common species, like the rabbit, deer, etc. It is one of the best-known ecosystems and one of the richest in biodiversity.
For hunting, they use the same open areas as in the dispersal phase. The imperial eagle is a specialist in its method of capturing rabbits since the size of its talons and other adaptations make the rabbit its ideal prey. The historic abundance of rabbits has led the species to become the imperial eagle's traditional and most basic food source. If an imperial eagle has options, it will hunt sick or weakened rabbits, which also helps keep the population of its prey healthy. The imperial eagle can also eat dead animals. In addition, to complement its diet, it hunts other species such as partridges, hares, pigeons and lizards.
The imperial eagle is one of the rarest birds in the world. The current population is a small part of what existed in the past, when the imperial eagle was widely distributed throughout the Iberian Peninsula and northern Africa. Today, aside from two couples that were recently introduced in Portugal, they only survive in the southwest of Spain. The small population size makes the risk of the species disappearing altogether very high, which is why it is classified as an animal in danger of extinction.