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Is there any indication of how many Great Eagles existed in Middle Earth? I guess they fought in the War of Wrath. If there were only a few of them, then I wouldn't expect their participation in the war to be notable. Half a dozen eagles might not have affected the war much, but a force of thousands would have been significant.

If they could reproduce, I would expect their numbers to grow as time went on. Or if they never reproduced, then they would die out over time, unless they were unable to die. If the time period matters for the number, then I'm asking about the end of the Third Age.

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Just one. The others were So-So Eagles. – CreationEdge Feb 15 at 3:04
up vote 16 down vote accepted

I've scoured every Tolkien book I have, and I can't find any indication of population size. The best I can do is "many", from a very early description of Eagles' Cleft, in the mountains encircling Gondolin in the First Age:

[T]he path is narrow, and of the right or westerly hand a sheer wall rises nigh seven chains from the way, ere it bursts atop into jagged pinnacles where are many eyries. There dwells Thorondor King of Eagles, Lord of the Thornhoth, whom the Eldar named Sorontur.

History of Middle-earth II The Book of Lost Tales Part Two Chapter 3: "The Fall of Gondolin"

This passage was written before 1920, to give you a sense of just how old it is; whether you consider it canon is really up to you.

We can, however, be fairly confident that the Eagles do reproduce; in Return of the King, Tolkien writes that Gawihir was a descendent of Thorondor:

There came Gwaihir the Windlord, and Landroval his brother, greatest of all the Eagles of the North, mightiest of the descendants of old Thorondor, who built his eyries in the inaccessible peaks of the Encircling Mountains when Middle-earth was young. Behind them in long swift lines came all their vassals from the northern mountains, speeding on a gathering wind. Straight down upon the Nazgûl they bore, stooping suddenly out of the high airs, and the rush of their wide wings as they passed over was like a gale.

Return of the King Book VI Chapter 4: "The Field of Cormallen"

That quote further suggests that there were a fair number of Eagles, though it's impossible to even guess at how many.

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It also hints at the fact that the Great Eagles really were great, as in huge. They weren't your garden-variety regular eagle with an eight foot wing span; these birds were big. Which also means that you wouldn't necessarily need thousands of them for their involvement in the War of Wrath to be noticeable. 50 or so might be enough if each one is the size of a helicopter, but with sharper talons. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 15 at 5:43
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@JanusBahsJacquet: Just for comparison, the largest real birds ever to exist had a wingspan of 7 meters (almost 23 feet). en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argentavis#Size – Juha Untinen Feb 15 at 9:46
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Beware that "many eyries" does not necessarily mean "many eagles". Just as in Minas Titrith there were many houses with boarded windows. The undertone of Tolkien's work is the passing of greatness and beauty, to be replaced with mundane and smaller. – Edheldil Feb 15 at 10:05
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@Edheldil True, but that description comes from the First Age, the height of Greatness and Beauty. Though they may have diminished in the intervening ages, I'm inclined to suggest there probably are a good many of them in the First – Jason Baker Feb 15 at 17:08

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