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Bald Eagles: Facts, Photos and Videos

Updated on February 21, 2016
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Science, nature and the environment, with regard to human impact, are subjects to which Chris applies his passions for research and writing.

Bald Eagle Along the FlatHead River, Western Montana

While I was kayaking on the Flathead River in Montana, I saw dozens of bald eagles in the trees along the way.
While I was kayaking on the Flathead River in Montana, I saw dozens of bald eagles in the trees along the way. | Source

Bald Eagles: About This Article

This article provides basic facts concerning Bald eagles as well as videos showing Bald eagles catching fish, even swimming after catching a fish too large to lift from the water. Also included is information about the choosing of the Bald eagle as the National Emblem of the United States.

Introducing the Bald Eagle

The Bald eagle is the only eagle unique to the North American continent. With the scientific name Haliaeetus leucocephalus, or white headed sea eagle, these massive birds live near bodies of open water where their main source of food is fish, although they will also feed on carrion, smaller birds and rodents.

Bald Eagles are excellent at catching fish. Spotting a fish from as far as a mile away, they go into a dive at speeds up to one hundred miles per hour, swooping down to water level and picking the unsuspecting fish from just under the surface. An eagle can carry a fish that is about half its own weight. If the fish is larger than that, the eagle might settle into the water, holding the fish in its talons, and swim to shore with its powerful wings.

Bald Eagle Swimming to Shore With Large Fish

Bald Eagle catching a Salmon for Dinner

Physical Appearance

The old english word balde, meaning white, was applied to this species because of its white, feathery head. The large, hooked beak, legs and feet are bright yellow, the eyes light yellow, and the body and wings dark brown.

The main difference between the male and female is that the female is typically the larger of the two. Female Bald Eagles weigh from ten to fourteen pounds with a six and a half to seven foot wingspan. Males weigh from eight to ten pounds with a six to six and a half foot wingspan. Both male and female make a high pitched screeching sound.

Sounds a Bald Eagle Makes

Names for eagles at different ages.

  • Eaglets- to four months of age.
  • Fledglings from four to six months.
  • immatures or juveniles from six months.

Bald Eagle Nests; Mating and Raising their Young

The same tree, is used year after year for nesting, with new layers of sticks added annually. The nests, called eyries or aeries, are the largest bird nests of North america and can weigh as much as a ton, measuring up to eight feet across. An old nest in Florida is nine feet across, twenty feet high and weighs four thousand pounds.

Depending on the region of the continent, mating season for the Bald Eagle is between September and April. The first egg is laid five to ten days after mating. Normally, the female lays two eggs, called a clutch, which are incubated by both the male and female for about thirty-five days. After hatching, one of the parents remains with the eaglets almost constantly for the first two weeks. Eagles start breeding when they reach four to six years of age. Bald Eagles typically mate for life, which is normally thirty to thirty-five years.

Decorah, Iowa Eagle Cam for 4/8//2015

Golden Eagle or Immature Bald Eagle? Click the Thumbnails to See All Three

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Is this a golden eagle or an immature bald eagle?  I took this photo from a moving kayak on the Flathead River in Montana.  That's why it is a little blurry.  This is a confirmed Golden eagleThis is a confirmed, immature Bald eagle.
Is this a golden eagle or an immature bald eagle?  I took this photo from a moving kayak on the Flathead River in Montana.  That's why it is a little blurry.
Is this a golden eagle or an immature bald eagle? I took this photo from a moving kayak on the Flathead River in Montana. That's why it is a little blurry. | Source
This is a confirmed Golden eagle
This is a confirmed Golden eagle | Source
This is a confirmed, immature Bald eagle.
This is a confirmed, immature Bald eagle. | Source

Poll About the Above Photo. Is it an Immature Bald or Adult Golden Eagle?

In the photo above, an eagle roosts proudly in a tree. Is this an immature Bald eagle or an adult Golden eagle? The photo was taken in northwestern Montana, USA.

See results

Bald Eagle Catching Fish on a Small Pond

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Bald Eagles: From Endangered to Abundant

The Bald Eagle, had been reduced to a mere one thousand birds across the North American continent by the 1960s. On February 14, 1978 Bald Eagles were listed as Endangered in Montana and 42 other states. In 1995, they were considered recovered and were delisted. Today their population has rebounded to over seventy thousand. According to the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) Bald eagles are abundant in Alaska and Canada. The status of this mighty bird as the symbol of American freedom was based originally on its ability to soar so freely. As a result of its incredible recovery, the Bald Eagle's status has been doubly earned.

The Bald Eagle, The National Emblem of The United States of America

The Bald Eagle was chosen by the Second Continental Congress to be the National Emblem of the United States on June 20, 1782. There were those who disagreed with the choice of the bald eagle.

I wish that the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country, he is a bird of bad moral character….he does not get his living honestly….he is a rank coward….(see full text of Franklin's quote).

John F. Kennedy put a more positive spin on the choice of the bald eagle as the National Emblem when he said,

"The Founding Fathers made an appropriate choice when they selected the bald eagle as the emblem of the nation. The fierce beauty and proud independence of this great bird aptly symbolizes the strength and freedom of America."

What would Benjamin Franklin have preferred to be the National Emblem?

For a truth, the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America . . . a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British guards, who should presume to invade his farmyard with a red coat on.

In spite of Franklin's negative comments, for 233 years the bald eagle has represented all that is good and honorable about the United States of America.

The Future of Endangered Species in the United States

The Bald eagle has enjoyed a high status in the United States even as it has experienced near extinction. But good days are back for this magnificent bird as the number of mating pairs grows. The attitude we have taken toward the Bald eagle should be applied to many other endangered species, so that we can see a rebound of wildlife across the country, that resembles what this land was like when Europeans first arrived.

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    • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image

      William Leverne Smith 17 months ago from Hollister, MO

      What fun! Thank you for this update! Love to see the eagles! ;-)

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