The bald eagle has been the national symbol of the United States
since June 20, 1782. The bald eagle is an endangered species and is
the only unique eagle found on the North America continent. The bald
eagle gets its name from an old English word, balde which
means white, not hairless. You can find bald
eagles in every U. S. state except Hawaii. 80% of the bald eagles in
the United States are found in Alaska.
A recording of a Bald Eagle at
Yellowstone National Park
Bald Eagles are one of the largest birds in North America. Adulteaglesgenerally weigh between 7 to 15 pounds and have a wing span of
6 to 8 feet. Females are about 1/3 larger than males.
The scientific name of bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) means white-headed sea eagle.
Bald Eagles live near large bodies of open water such as lakes,
marshes, seacoasts and rivers, where there are plenty of fish to eat
and tall trees for nesting and roosting. Bald Eagles are carnivores
(meat-eaters) and hunt during the day. Eagles feed mainly on fish,
but they also eat anything that can be caught easily or is found
dead. But, they cant lift more than four pounds.
Bald eagles mate for life and can reach the age of 40. High in the
tree tops, on craggy cliffs or mountains ledges is where the bald
eagle builds its nest. They usually use the same nest each year,
adding more sticks every year. Sometimes, their nests reach 10 feet
across and weigh as much as 2,000 pounds
Baby eagles are mottled brown and white. The female lays 1 to 3 eggs.
The eggs take between 1 to 1 1/2 months to hatch. Both the male and
female will take a turn of sitting on the eggs. After hatching both
the male and female feed the hatching's until they learn to fly.
The distinct white head and tail of the mature bird is developed
between 4 and 6 years of age. The beak and eyes turn yellow between 4
and 5 years of age, and are brown prior to that time. Their eyesight
is very powerful, at least 3 to 4 times greater than that of humans.
The flight speed of a bald eagle ranges between 36 and 44 miles per hour.
Their long descending dive speed is estimated at 50-75 miles per hour.
Not all ealgles migrate. Many bald eagles will remain in a place over the winter
where water remains open and food is available. The bald eagles migration begans in the fall when northern lakes and rivers freeze over. They move south to areas with water and food sources. Young eagles migrate earlier than their parents.
A bald eagles wings are long and broad, making them effective for soaring. When migrating, eagles seldom flap their wings; rather, they use thermal updrafts. Themal are rising currents of warm air, and updrafts are generated by terrain, such as valley edges or mountain slopes. Soring enables bald eagles to conserve energy. Long-distance migration flights are accomplished by climbing high in a thermal updraft and then gliding downward to catch the next theraml.
Eagles are birds of prey, or raptors, they hunt for a living usually while on the wing, are meat eaters, use their feet instead of their beak to capture prey. They have keen eyesight, a sharp hooked beak, and powerful feet with curved sharp talons.