Status: Least Concern
Range & Habitat
Bald Eagles are native to Canada, Mexico, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, and the United States. Bald Eagles can be found in forested areas near bodies of water such as lakes, reservoirs, rivers, marshes and coast lines.
Mature Adult Bald Eagles have dark brown bodies and wings with distinguishable white heads and tails. Their beaks and legs are a bright yellow. Immature juvenile Bald Eagles have brown wings and bodies that are mottled with white in varying amounts. Their heads and tails are mostly dark, and adult plumage will not be attained until about five years of age. Bald Eagles have hooked beaks and heavy bodies. When flying they hold their wings out flat. Female Bald Eagles are slight larger than males and are approximately 35-37 inches with a wingspan that ranges from 72-90 inches. Bald Eagles can weigh anywhere from 10-14 pounds.
Bald Eagles can soar, glide, and flap over long distances. They are very powerful fliers. Bald Eagles mate in the air, flying high, locking talons, and spiraling downward together. To avoid crashing, they will break off at the last minute before hitting the ground. Bald Eagles catch fish by swooping down to the surface of a lake or stream and grabbing the ones closer to the top. In addition to hunting, Bald Eagles will sometimes steal food from other birds such as Ospreys. Bald Eagles defend their territories during breeding season from a multitude of intruders such as raptors, ravens, coyotes, and foxes. Although these birds are often solitary the can be found congregating by the hundreds at communal roosts and feeding sites particularly in the winter. Bald Eagles are capable of floating and can be found using their wings to "row" over deep water.
Reproduction & Growth
Bald Eagles build one of the largest bird nests measuring around 5 to 6 feet in diameter and 2 to 4 feet tall. The nests range from cylindrical to conical to flat in shape. Both males and females bring materials to the nest but the female weaves sticks together, filling the cracks with softer grasses, moss, or cornstalks. The female will line the inside of the nest in layers starting with lichen or other fine wooded material, then with downy feathers and sometimes sprigs of greenery. Nests can take up to three months to construct and may be reused or added to year after year. Trees are usually where Bald Eagles build their nests except in places where ground sites or cliff faces are available. Nests built on the ground are built on any available surface such as kelp and driftwood near coast lines. Bald eagles remain together until one dies once they are paired. Mating season ranges anywhere from late September to early April. The female will lay from one to three eggs and both sexes share the duty of incubation for 35 days.
The diet of Bald Eagles consists of many types of fish and a wide variety of birds, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates and mammals. This includes salmon, herring, catfish, shad, crabs, rabbits, and muskrats. Bald Eagles will eat live, fresh prey or dead as carrion. Bald Eagles will sometimes ingest large amounts of food and digest it over a period of several days. They can survive for many days, even weeks fasting.
Bald eagles were once placed on the Endangered Species list in 1978 due to a dramatic decline in populations caused by the heavy use of DDT pesticide, and rapid trapping and shooting. In June 2007, after a spectacular recovery, the bird was taken off the list and has achieved a status of least concern. Lead poisoning from ammunition in hunter shot prey and contaminated watersheds, motor vehicle collisions, and destruction of habitat are all continuing threats to Bald Eagles.