Bald EagleScientific Name Haliaeetus leucocephalus         

Conservation Status Least Concern

Appearance

The bald eagle has a striking head covered in white feathers. From this protrudes the curved yellow beak. Their body is wrapped in dark brown feathers both on top and on the bottom. The top of their tail is brown with the underside being white. Their claws are the same yellow as their beak and end in sharp talons. Until their fifth year of age their brown coat is mottled with white.

Some bald eagles exhibit leucism. This means that some of their brown feathers lack pigment meaning they appear white. As not all the feathers are white they are not albino.

Their eye is about the same size as a humans but they cans see four to seven times as well. It does not turn meaning they need to move the whole head to move their eye.

Body length for this species is between 70 and 102cm (28-40in). The wings measure 1.8-2.3m (5.9-7.5ft) across. Females are about 25% larger than males. They average 5.6kg (12lb) with males averaging 4.1kg (9lb).

Lifespan                                                                                  

On average bald eagles live for 20 years. The maximum recorded age for a wild bird was 28 years while one in captivity managed to reach 50 years old.

Diet

Bald EagleThe bald eagle is a carnivore. They will opportunistically hunt any prey they come across but their favorite food is fish. They will also feed upon other birds, reptiles and mammals sometimes as large as deer fawns. When carrion is available they will eat it.

Bald eagles sit waiting on a perch until they spy a fish near the surface of the river. At this point they will swoop down and catch the fish using their feet which have rough pads that help grip the slippery food.

In their range bald eagles are the apex predator. This means that they have no predators placing them at the top of the food chain. Unfortunately this means that they ingest all the chemicals which come up through the food chain.

Habitat

North America is the native home of the bald eagle. They can be found throughout Mexico, the USA and Canada. They are also found on some offshore islands.

They make their home near large bodies of water this may be the coast, inland lakes and rivers or estuaries. An essential requirement for their home is large trees. As humans cut these downs their population is affected. Most of their habitat is coniferous or hardwood trees.

During 2010 a family of bald eagles made a neighborhood in Harlem, New York their home.

Bald EagleReproduction

Bald eagles mate for life. When it comes time to find a mate a male and female perform an aerial courtship dance. They will lock talons and tumble in the air letting go just before hitting the ground. Often this occurs at the place where they were born. In the event one member of the pairing passes on the other will find another mate.

Nest building begins three months before egg laying. They will find a sturdy tree or cliff near the water to build it. Using sticks they will construct the nest. It is used year after year and each year they add to it. One weighed 2 tons and had been used for 30 years when it finally fell from its tree. Some nests have been seen on electricity poles.

Between October and February 1 to 3 whitish, oval eggs will be deposited into the nest. For the next 35 days the parents take turns incubating these.

The first eaglet to hatch will be the biggest and most likely to survive. If the parents don’t have enough food for three chicks this one may kill its siblings. The eaglets are born a fluffy and are a light grey colour. For 12 weeks the parents care for them. After this they leave the nest.

During the care period they are feed 4-5 times a day. The male will go out hunting and bring food back during the first two weeks at which point he begins to share this duty with the female.

Most eaglets do not survive their first year. Those that do will achieve maturity at five years old. It is not until this point that the head feathers will turn white.

Bald EagleBehaviour

Bald eagle behavior varies across their range. In some areas they migrate. The Canadian eagles move into the US during the winter to find food while some will just make small movements around their territory to find food.

To communicate bald eagles will use a harsh, cackling call.

Quick facts

After the California condor bald eagles are America’s second largest bird.

They are the national bird of the United States of America. It appears on most official seals of U.S. government.

In the event that a bald eagle lost a feather on one wing the same feather would drop off the other side. This helps keep them balanced.

Photo Credits:

Top By Softeis (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Middle Public Domain

Chicks Public Domain

Bottom By KetaDesign (http://www.ketadesign.ca/eaglephotos36.html) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

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