Weight: 7 - 14 lbs
Wing span: 72 - 96 inches
Incubation: 35 days
Offspring: 1 - 3
Haliaeetus leucocephalus Vocalizing (108 KB)
The bald eagle is not really bald. It gets its name from the white feathers that cover its head. In contrast with the dark brown of the rest of its feathers, it appears bald. Bald eagles also have white tail feathers. They don't get their white feathers until they are 7 years old. Bald eagles are found all over North America. However, due to encroachment and the use of DDT, which decreased their numbers, they are primarily found in Florida and Alaska.
The bald eagle feeds primarily on fish. They have several different fishing styles ranging from diving into water after fish to wading in the shallows spearing fish with their beak. Bald eagles also regularly steal fish from ospreys. They perch near the osprey's fishing ground and wait for it to catch a fish. The bald eagle will then fly after the osprey and, since it is not weighed down by the fish, pester the osprey until it drops the fish so it can flee. The eagle will then swoop down and catch the fish. They will also occasionally snatch the fish directly from the osprey with their talons. When fish are scarce, the bald eagle will turn to other sources of food such as carrion, waterfowl, rabbits, and small rodents. Bald eagles will occasionally catch geese on the wing. They will fly underneath the goose, roll over, and seize it with their talons.
Bald eagles are found throughout North America. They nest and roost in high places depending on the area. In the south, they tend to roost and nest in tall trees, preferably pine. These nests are generally 45 to 70 feet off the ground. In the north, they will nest on rocky cliffs or pinnacles. The bald eagles keep their nesting sites and use them year after year. Every year the eagles will add to the nest so over time they grow to be quite large. One nest, started no later than 1890 and surviving until it was blown down in 1925, was measured at 12 feet deep and 9 feet in diameter.
Bald eagles do not have any major predators. Occasionally, osprey will fight back and crows will pester them, but rarely is any damage done to the eagle.
Like many raptors, bald eagles spend a lot of the time perched motionless watching their surroundings with their excellent eyesight. Bald eagles mate for life but seldom will this pair roost with a group of eagles. When surprised, the bald eagle will immediately fly away in low zigzags making a hissing noise.
Female bald eagles usually lay 2 eggs but will occasionally lay 1 or 3. Both bald eagles take part in sitting on the eggs and, once hatched, feeding the chicks. The eaglets hatch after about 35 days. Usually only one eaglet survives to adulthood because it will bully the others out of their share of the food. Bald eagles only guard the eaglets during bad weather. During bad weather, one of the adult eagles will stand over the eaglets with their wings spread. Gradually the eaglets grow feathers and start flapping their wings. Eventually the adult bald eagles will lure the eaglet into flight by offering food as a reward. The eaglets will continue to stay in the nest until the end of the summer when the parents kick them out.
Like most raptors, the bald eagle has excellent vision.