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Bald Eagle Bald Eagle

U.S. national bird

Identification and Pictures

(Haliaeetus leucocephalus)Bald Eagle

Bald Eagles, the majestic national bird of the U.S. are 30 to 43 inches with a wing span of 6 to 8 feet.  The white head and the white tail stand out against the dark body.  The large, powerful, yellow beak, and large taloned feet are typical of birds of prey that eat animals, and tare meat.  They have piercing, bright yellow eyes.  Males and females are identical in plumage, but the females are quite a bit larger than males.

Young birds are often mistaken for Golden Eagles.  They have mottled brown plumage speckled with white, white on the belly, and yellow feet.  They do not get the white head, and tail like the adults until the 4th or 5th year.  The Bald eagle's average life span is 20 years in the wild, but they may live 30 or more years. 

Photos by Keith Lee.  The camera I use is the Canon EOS 40D.

     Bald Eagle

The birds are very powerful flyers, flying with deep strokes and often soaring with flattened wings on thermal convection currents.

Bald Eagle sound

The eagles call consists of weak chirping whistles.  The voice is a sharp high pitched cackle like kleek-kik-ik-ik or a lower kak-kak.

Preferred Habitat

Bald Eagles can be found across Canada, and the U.S.  They live along rivers, coasts, lakes, in the mountains, and open country.  They prefer to stay away from humans.  The availability of a food supply determines if they migrate or not.  If their territory gives access to water with fish year round they will stay all year.  If the water freezes over and they can't get enough food, they will migrate south to warmer country.

Breeding and Nesting

Bald Eagles mate for life.  Their courtship involves elaborate calls and flight displays.  During this flight they do swoops, and chase each other through rapid turns and dives.  In a cartwheel flight the birds will fly high, lock talons, and free fall, tumbling toward the ground, and separating just before they reach the ground.  They need old-growth stands of coniferous or hardwood trees for perching, roosting, and nesting.

Both birds together will build a nest of sticks, lined with fine wood materials.  The nest may be on a cliff or on the ground, but is usually in a large tree, giving them view of their territory.  Bald eagles are very territorial, and will defend a territory of 1 to 2 miles during nesting season.  The nest which can be 8 feet wide, and 12 feet deep is the largest nest of any North American bird.  They will normally use the same nest each year, adding more sticks each year, creating a nest that can weigh as much as 2 tons.  The female will lay 1 to 3 white eggs, and both birds will incubate them for around 35 days.  Both parents will care for the young birds, which may not fledge for 12 weeks.  Often only one eaglet will survive because an older sibling may either kill a younger one or keep it from getting food.  The eagles will fiercely defend the eggs, and young from predators such as crows, raccoons and magpies.

Food 

Bald Eagles hunt for fish in rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water.  They hunt fish by swooping down, and snatching the fish out of the water with their talons.  They are opportunistic, and will kill other animals, and birds for food as well as feed on carrion.  They will also steal food from other birds, and mammals.  Sometimes Bald Eagles hunt cooperatively, with one bird flushing prey out while the other attacks it. 

To learn about other favorite birds click here.

 
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