The majestic bald eagle, the national bird of the United States, was nearly extinct in the 1970s due to illegal hunting and the effects of DDT poisoning. Thanks to recovery efforts and stronger federal protection, however, this large raptor is no longer endangered and continues to make a strong comeback.
Bald Eagle, Eagle
- Bill: Yellow, thick, upper mandible strongly hooked
- Size: 35-42 inches long with 7-foot wingspan, powerful build
- Colors: White, brown, yellow
- Markings: Male and female birds look alike (female birds are slightly larger) with a rick dark brown body, bright white head, neck and tail and yellow eyes, bill, legs and feet. Talons are thick and powerful. Juvenile birds have mottled brown and white plumage and do not get the distinctive white head until they are 4-5 years old.
Fish, carrion, waterfowl, small mammals
Habitat and Migration:
Bald eagles are fairly rare throughout the continental United States and Canada near large lakes and rivers with good fish populations. Concentrations of the birds can be found in southern Florida, Alaska and near large waterways in the Midwest. Canadian birds migrate seasonally into the United States.
These raptors are fairly quiet and use a throaty, high pitched chatter call. The Hollywood long shriek often associated with bald eagles in movies is actually a red-tailed hawk.
Bald eagles gather in large colonies when migrating or wherever an abundant food source can be found. They can often be seen hunting for fish or perched in trees with good fields of view. They soar looking for prey and hold their wings nearly level while airborne.
Bald eagles are monogamous birds that generally mate for life unless a pair is unable to produce eggs. Both parent birds incubate a single annual brood of 2 eggs for 30-45 days, and both parents will feed the young birds for 70-100 days until their first flight. Mated pairs return to the same stick nest annually and will add to the nest each year.
Attracting Bald Eagles:
Like all birds of prey, bald eagles are not generally found in backyards. Birders who live near large lakes and rivers may attract these raptors with tall trees or platform perches in their yard with clear fields of view.
- Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)
- Steller’s Sea-Eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus)