The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus, from Greek hali “sea”, aiētos “eagle,” leuco “white”, cephalos “head”) is a bird of prey found in North America. A sea eagle, it has two known subspecies and forms a species pair with the White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla). Its range includes most of Canada and Alaska, all of the contiguous United States, and northern Mexico. It is found near large bodies of open water with an abundant food supply and old-growth trees for nesting.
The Bald Eagle is an opportunistic feeder which subsists mainly on fish, which it swoops down and snatches from the water with its talons. It builds the largest nest of any North American bird and the largest tree nests ever recorded for any animal species, up to 4 m (13 ft) deep, 2.5 m (8.2 ft) wide, and 1 metric ton (1.1 short tons) in weight. Sexual maturity is attained at the age of four to five years.
Bald Eagles are not actually bald; the name derives from an older meaning of the word, “white headed.” The adult is mainly brown with a white head and tail. The sexes are identical in plumage, but females are about 25 percent larger than males. The beak is large and hooked. The plumage of the immature is brown.
The Bald Eagle is both the national bird and national animal of the United States of America. The Bald Eagle appears on its seal. In the late 20th century it was on the brink of extirpation in the contiguous United States. Populations have since recovered, and the species was removed from the U.S. government’s list of endangered species on July 12, 1995, and transferred to the list of threatened species. It was removed from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in the Lower 48 States on June 28, 2007. [Wikipedia]
The Bald Eagle has been the national emblem of the United States since 1782 and a spiritual symbol for native people for far longer than that. These regal birds aren’t really bald, but their white-feathered heads gleam in contrast to their chocolate-brown body and wings. Look for them soaring in solitude, chasing other birds for their food, or gathering by the hundreds in winter. Once endangered by hunting and pesticides, Bald Eagles have flourished under protection. [All About Birds]
Bald Eagle Facts [All About Birds]
- Rather than do their own fishing, Bald Eagles often go after other creatures’ catches. A Bald Eagle will harass a hunting Osprey until the smaller raptor drops its prey in midair, where the eagle swoops it up. A Bald Eagle may even snatch a fish directly out of an Osprey’s talons. Fishing mammals (even people sometimes) can also lose prey to Bald Eagle piracy.
- Had Benjamin Franklin prevailed, the U.S. emblem might have been the Wild Turkey. In 1784, Franklin disparaged the national bird’s thieving tendencies and its vulnerability to harassment by small birds. “For my own part,” he wrote, “I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. … Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District.”
- Bald Eagles occasionally hunt cooperatively, with one individual flushing prey towards another.
- Bald Eagles can live a long time. The oldest recorded bird in the wild was at least 38 years old when it was hit and killed by a car in New York in 2015. It had been banded in the same state in 1977.