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Description

BREEDING MALE

The Bald Eagle is a large raptor, dark brown overall, with a distinctive white head and tail as an adult. Bald Eagles also have a bright yellow beak and feet.

bald eagle

Female

Same as male.

Seasonal change in appearance

None.

Juvenile

All brown, then gaining white mottling until reaching adult plumage in 4-5 years.

bald eagle.

Habitat

Usually near large bodies of water such as coasts, lakes, or large rivers.

Diet

Primarily fish, but also ducks, turtles, and carrion.

Behavior

Participates in both predation and scavenging, sometimes stealing prey from other birds.

Range

Occurs throughout most of North America. After serious declines due to the pesticide DDT, the species has responded well to recovery efforts and now breeds in all of the lower 48 states, as well as in Alaska and Canada. Large concentrations gather along rivers and reservoirs in the winter months where open water remains.

More information:

Bent Life History

Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the Bald Eagle.

Wing Shape

The shape of a bird's wing is often an indication of its habits and behavior. Fast flying birds have long, pointed wings. Soaring birds have long, broad wings. Different songbirds will have a slightly different wing shape. Some species look so much alike (Empidonax flycatchers) that scientists sometimes use the length of specific feathers to confirm a species' identification.

Wing images from the University of Puget Sound, Slater Museum of Natural History


Fun Facts

The Bald Eagle has been designated by Congress as our nation’s symbol. Its population recovery is a great success resulting from the Endangered Species Act.

 

Vocalizations

Call is a series of loud and rather high-pitched, sharp kik-kik-kik-kiks.

Similar Species

  • Golden Eagles and all hawks lack pure white head and tail.

    Golden Eagle
    Juvenile Bald Eagles have a dark head and tail and can be confused with the Golden Eagle.


    golden eagle

  • Osprey
    Usually found near water, Osprey have a dark line through the head, not the complete white head of the Bald Eagle. Osprey lack the white tail of the adult Bald Eagle. They fly with a bent wing, compared to the straight wing of the Bald Eagle.

     

    osprey

Nesting

Usually placed in a tall tree or on a cliff, but may be on the ground if such sites are not available. Nest is a very large platform or bowl of sticks, often remodeled and added to from year to year.

Eggs

Number: 2, but sometimes 1-3.

Color: Dull white.

Incubation and fledging:
Young hatch at about 35 days and fledge at about 11-12 weeks, with an additional dependency period of about 2 months.

Professor Bird