Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Kingdom
Phylum
Class
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Population size
250,000
Life Span
28-36 yrs
TOP SPEED
120 km/h
WEIGHT
3-6.3 kg
LENGTH
70-102 cm
WINGSPAN
1.8-2.3 m

The Bald eagle is a magnificent and easily identified species of bird. Its body and wings are dark browns in color while the head and tail are white. The legs and feet are bright yellow and the eyes are light yellow. The Bald eagle has sharp talons on its feet and large, hooked beaks. Males of this species 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.

Di

Diurnal

Ca

Carnivore

Pi

Piscivores

Ar

Arboreal

Al

Altricial

Te

Terrestrial

Ov

Oviparous

Te

Territorial

Gl

Gliding

Ap

Apex predator

So

Soaring birds

Co

Congregatory

Mo

Monogamy

So

Solitary

Pa

Partial Migrant

B

starts with

Ar

Aristocrats
(collection)

U.

U.S. States Animals
(collection)

Distribution

Geography

Bald eagles inhabit a large territory, stretching from northern Mexico to the USA and Canada, thus covering the major part of North America. These birds are partially migratory, depending on location. If their territory has access to open water, the birds remain there year-round, but if the body of water freezes during the winter, making it impossible to obtain food, they migrate to the south or to the coast. During the breeding season, Bald eagles occur in any kind of American wetland habitat such as seacoasts, rivers, large lakes or marshes, or other large bodies of open water with an abundance of fish. They require old-growth and mature stands of coniferous or hardwood trees for perching, roosting, and nesting. They will also nest in mangrove swamps, pinelands, seasonally flooded flatwoods, hardwood swamps, and open prairies and pastureland with scattered tall trees. While wintering, Bald eagles tend to choose open habitats, such as prairies, meadows or tundra, or open forests with regular carrion access.

Bald Eagle habitat map

Habits and Lifestyle

Bald eagles usually lead a solitary life, gathering in groups during nesting season. They also congregate into large roosts of up to 400 birds and groups may also gather in areas with a sufficient amount of prey. Bald eagles are comparatively inactive during strong winds and in winters. As the breeding season comes, they vocalize and chase conspecifics, thus defending the territory. Bald eagles hunt by day alone or in groups flying along the streams, wading in the water, catching fish, and eating it right on the spot. The birds communicate with each other using weak staccato, chirping whistles, 'kleek kik ik ik ik', somewhat similar in cadence to a gull's call. The calls of young birds tend to be more harsh and shrill than those of adults

Seasonal behavior
Bird's call

Diet and Nutrition

Bald eagles are carnivorous (piscivorous) and feed mainly upon fish. Their diet includes also small species of birds, rabbits, reptiles, crabs, and amphibians. In addition, they can eat the eggs of other birds.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
late winter-early spring
INCUBATION PERIOD
34-36 days
INDEPENDENT AGE
4-5.5 months
BABY NAME
eaglet
BABY CARRYING
2 eggs

Bald eagles 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 the 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. Eaglets become reproductively mature and start to breed when they are between 4 and 5 years of age.

Population

Population threats

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 the drainage of wetlands 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 eggshells and reproductive failure.

Population number

According to the All About Birds resource the total breeding population size of the Bald eagle is 250,000 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are increasing.

Ecological niche

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.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • A Bald eagle has approximately 7,000 feathers. When it loses a feather on one wing, it will also lose a matching feather on the other wing to keep balance.
  • Due to their high speed and sharp claws, Bald eagles are able to steal hunt from other birds and, sometimes, humans.
  • Despite its name, the Bald eagle isn’t actually bald! In Latin, the name of this species means white-headed sea eagle due to adult eagles having white feathers on their heads.
  • The Bald eagle can’t smell but it has a perfect sense of taste: if the food tastes spoiled, the eagle will not eat it.
  • The head and tail of the Bald eagle become white only at the age of 4-5 years.
  • The Bald eagle breathes air through the hole on its bill called “nare”.
  • Their sense of hearing is as good as that of humans while the distance vision is up to 3-4 times better than that of humans.
  • Since 1782, the Bald eagle has been the national bird of USA.
  • Bald eagles are found only in North America, being one of the 7 species of sea eagles.
  • The Bald eagle can cross water without swimming or flying over it: it sits on water and rows itself across, using its wings.

References

1. Bald Eagle Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bald_eagle
2. Bald Eagle on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/22695144/0
3. Xeno-canto bird call - https://xeno-canto.org/703906

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