Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Details About The Bald Eagle

  • General Information

    The Bald Eagle is the only large brown bird with a white head and tail. It has a massive yellow beak and yellow feet. Immature Bald Eagles have dark beaks and are dark all over with highly variable white splotching. The birds don't attain sexual maturity and the adult plumage of white head and tail until four to five years old. Sexes are similar in appearance, with females often noticeably larger than males. Northern birds are larger than southern birds.

    Latin Name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus
    Class: Aves
    Order: Falconiformes
    Family: Accipitridae
    Length: 27-35 inches
    Weight: 9-15 pounds
    Wingspan: 70-90 inches
    Common Name: American Eagle, white-headed eagle, white-headed sea eagle
    Etymology: balde (Old English) - "white"; haliaeetos (Greek) - "sea eagle"; leucocephalus (Greek) - "white-headed"

  • Flight, Voice & Habitat

    The Bald Eagle soars on wide, flat, stiff wings that are held horizontally. For their size, Bald Eagles are extremely agile and can turn quite suddenly. Bald Eagles hunt mostly in the early morning, and sometimes again in late afternoon. They will occasionally hunt cooperatively when hunting mammals. Bald Eagles use several methods to catch prey, including swooping from a perch or while in flight and wading from shore into the water and grabbing fish with bill or talons. 

    Bald Eagles most commonly scream a gull-like cackle or whine, often with their heads tossed back when perching. The female's voice is lower-pitched.

    Bald Eagles are sea eagles and prefer to live near water such as lakes, rivers, marshes, and seacoasts.

  • Nesting

    Bald Eagles prefer old growth trees that extend above the canopy for roosting and nesting, although they will occasionally use cliffs or ground if no trees are available. Eyries are built near the tops of tall, live trees or cliffs. They are made of sticks up to two inches in diameter and lined with moss, grass, pine needles. The same eyries may be used for years. Bald eagles lay 1-3 relatively small white eggs, and both males and females incubate the eggs. On average they start breeding at 7-8 years, but may breed as sub-adults and they don't always breed every year. Bald eagle incubation lasts 34-37 days, and young eagles fly at 10-11 weeks.

  • Distribution

    Bald Eagles are found over most of the United States, with the largest populations in Alaska. In the east, they still breed in upstate New York, Maine, Michigan, and along the Carolina and Florida coastlines. They are now nesting on inland lakes, a sign of continued recovery. While the Bald Eagle was once considered endangered, populations have recovered and this species has been removed from the Endangered Species List.

  • Food

    Bald Eagles are primarily fish eaters. They can catch fish 6-12 inches under the surface, and they often go for dead or floating fish. While much of the Bald Eagle's diet consists of fish, they will also eat ducks, rabbits, herons, squirrels, opossums and carrion. Almost 90% of the salmon eaten by eagles is carrion, often stolen from other birds such as osprey or immature eagles. Eagles are successful about 10% of the time when chasing mammals, and 70-80% when fishing. An adult bald eagle can consume one pound of fish in less than four minutes! They can lift 1/2 of their own weight, and carry 1/3 of their own weight.

  • Current Resident Birds

    Male Bald Eagle, Adler, German for "eagle," was named by a CRC Volunteer. A native of Mecklenburg County, this "home boy" came to CRC in 2005. Adler salutes his country as a member of Carolina Raptor Center's education team for onsite events. The Bald Eagle is the national bird of the United States, much to the chagrin of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, who was an advocate of the Turkey for this honor.

    Dante, a male Bald Eagle, was transferred from Lake Milton Raptor Center in Ohio where he was an eagle educator. He lives with his mate in the Eagle Aviary bachelor pad along with Luke and Adler. At Carolina Raptor Center since 2007, Dante was named for the Italian poet "Dante" who penned the Divine Comedy.

    South Carolina Native, Derek, the Bald Eagle, hails from the Low Country - Charleston to be specific. Half of the celebrated mated pair - Savannah and Derek -- he has cared for many chicks that have been released back into the wild. He is named after a young man who loved Carolina Raptor Center. When he passed away unexpectedly, his family set up a memorial in his name. Derek Hagemann's family celebrates the birth of each new eagle hatchling as one of their own.

    From just over the border in Lancaster, SC, juvenile Bald Eagle Lily will slowly get her white head and white tail over the next five years. This transition is why some folks on the East Coast insist that they have seen a Golden Eagle when they have really seen a juvenile Bald Eagle. Lily is named for the white spider lillies native to her original home at Lansford Canal.

    College boy and Bald Eagle, Luke, from the Virginia Tech. School of Forestry & Wildlife Resources, originally hailed from the Baltimore Zoo. Luke was a display bird for years before he joined our education team, well past middle age. He is a frequent stand in for Charlotte mascot Bald Eagle Lady CLT He has resided at Carolina Raptor Center since 1995.

    The better half of CRC's most successful Bald Eagle mated pair, Savannah first laid eggs in 2004. Since that time, she and her fellow South Carolinian, Derek, have hatched six chicks that have been released back into the wild. Savannah is the more low key of the two birds and has her own Facebook page, www.facebook.com/SavannahEagle and Twitter feed, www.twitter.com/Savannah_Eagle. She is also the star of eagle nesting season on the WCNC EagleCam.

  • Fun Facts & Other Interesting Information

    Bald Eagles don't get their full white head or while tail until they reach 5-6 years of age and are ready to find their mate. When they are truly "balde" - old English for "white-headed" - its time to settle down!

    "I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character…too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has taken a Fish…the Bald Eagle takes it from him." -- Benjamin Frankin

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