The Bald eagle is a magnificent and easily identified species of birds. The body and wings of mature Bald eagles are dark brown in color while the head and tail are white. The legs and feet are bright yellow and the eyes are light yellow. These birds have sharp talons on their feet and large, hooked beaks. Heads and necks of these eagles are rather large. Males of the Bald eagle are smaller than females. Young and sub-adults are brown in color with different degrees of white spots on the lower part of their bodies.
The area of its distribution is a large territory, stretching from northern Mexico to the USA and Canada, thus covering the major part of North America. These birds live in various habitats from deciduous forests of Quebec and New England to the bayous of Louisiana and the Sonoran Desert. In addition, the Bald eagle is the only sea eagle, native to North America. These eagles are mainly found near large water bodies: along sea coasts, inland lakes, rivers and coastal estuaries. They are frequently met within 3 km of a water source.
These birds usually lead solitary life, gathering in groups during nesting season. The bald eagles congregate into large roosts of up to 400 birds. Groups of eagles can also be seen in areas with sufficient amount of prey. The bald eagles are comparatively inactive during strong winds and in winters. As breeding season comes, these birds vocalize and chase conspecifics, thus defending the territory. They are diurnal hunters, hunting alone or in groups. They hunt along the streams, wading in water, catching fish and eating it right on the spot. Migration depends on geographical ranges of specific populations. Thus, some populations migrate locally in search of food while, in southern regions, many populations don’t migrate at all.
Bald eagles are carnivorous (piscivorous) fish eagles, in a sense that they feed mainly upon fish. Their diet includes also small species of birds, rabbits, reptiles, crabs and amphibians. In addition, they can eat eggs of other birds.
These birds are monogamous, mating once in a lifetime or living together, until one of the mates dies. Courtship displays, performed by the bald eagles, are impressive and spectacular. They also perform fight displays, where the birds swoop at one another. The pair conducts the nest and then, 1-3 months later, eggs are laid. The season of egg-laying is late winter to early spring, when the female usually lays 2 eggs. Both the male and the female take part in incubation of the eggs for 34-36 days. After the chicks are hatched, one of the parents is constantly with them for about 2 weeks. Then, at the age of 10-12 weeks the chicks start flying but the parents keep on feeding and protecting them for another 2-3 months. Sexual maturity is reached at the age of 4-5 years.
Despite the fact that the recovery of the population has been conducted, threats are still present. One of the threats is the loss of habitat because of the occupation of coastal areas and drainage of wetland by humans. On the other hand, illegal shooting, human disturbance, pollution, collisions with power lines and air vehicles are among notable threats to this species’ population. And finally, pollutants contain a serious threat of poisoning: DDT, for example, can cause thinning of eggshell and reproductive failure.
Nowadays there are approximately 70,000 Bald eagles all around North America. The species is not endangered and is classified in the IUCN Red List as Least Concern (LC) with an increasing population trend.
Due to being top predators, Bald eagles play important role in the ecosystem. The decline of their population and following recovery had a huge impact on the organisms of their habitat. For instance, it has caused the decline of murres’ population in the area.