Atlantic Bald Eagles
Bald Eagles of the Atlantic Coast
The bald eagle is found throughout North America, and is the only eagle unique to the continent. It is the national bird and symbol of the United States of America.
This stunning icon of North America is often seen along the Atlantic Coast, from the Canadian Maritimes to the southern United States.
Bald eagles are often found around lakes and rivers. During winter, eagle populations increase in coastal areas as they follow seasonal food supplies.
Bald eagles are members of the raptor (bird of prey) family.
Bald eagles typically prey on fish, waterfowl, rodents, and small mammals. Bald eagles also scavenge on animal carcasses.
Bald eagles reach a length of about 3 feet, a wingspan of 6-7 feet, and a weigh 10-14 lbs. Females are larger than males, which is a common trait of birds of prey.
Adult bald eagles have a dark brown back and breast; a white head, neck, and tail; and yellow feet and beak. Juvenile bald eagles are a mixture of brown and white; with a black beak in young birds.
Bald eagles were officially declared an endangered species in 1967 in all areas of the United States south of the 40th parallel, under a law that preceded the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
In June 2007, the U.S. Department of the Interior took the bald eagle off the endangered species list after the bird made a remarkable recovery.
USA Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey
An important bald eagle population assessment occurs annually in January, when citizen scientists conduct the Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey.
“The survey is a true public-private partnership with hundreds of volunteer citizen scientists taking part, in addition to federal, state, and NGO biologists.
The data is collected during a two-week window every year; then sent to a national database set up to monitor eagle populations in the lower 48 states. The survey is part of a national effort to identify important winter habitat and develop a total population index for the wintering eagle population.
Bald Eagle Seasonal Migrations
Along North America's Atlantic coastline, bald eagles migrate with the seasons. During the warm months, eagles disperse to traditional areas where they nest and raise their young.
During winter, considerable numbers of bald eagles move to Atlantic coastal areas where food is available. Eagles are highly intelligent birds and opportunistic feeders.
Depending on local conditions, winter eagles may feed on carrion, waterfowl, rodents, small game, fish, or other food sources.
Winter Feasts - Fish Kills
Bald eagles commonly congregate in areas where fish kills occur during winter cold spells. Cold stun fish kills can affect spotted seatrout, spot, red drum, black drum, spot, mullet, gizzard shad, menhaden and other species.
Winter fish kills in the Atlantic region are known to occur in saltwater as well as freshwater.
In addition to feasting on fish that die and wash ashore, bald eagles are skilled predators and will take fish that become disoriented or trapped in shallows during cold spells.