Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Bald Eagles are majestic birds of prey native to North America. They are among the largest raptors in North America. They have a wingspan that can reach up to 7 feet (2.1 meters), making them superb fliers capable of soaring gracefully through the skies.
Bald Eagles inhabit coastal areas, lakes, rivers, marshes, and even some desert regions across North America. They prefer areas near large bodies of water, such as rivers or lakes, where they can find fish, their primary food source. Bald Eagles have a range that spans from Alaska and Canada down to the northern parts of Mexico.
They are primarily fish-eaters, and they have exceptional hunting skills to capture their prey. They soar high above the water or perch on trees near the shoreline, scanning the surface for fish. Once they spot a fish near the water’s surface, they dive down and snatch it with their sharp talons. While fish make up the majority of their diet, Bald Eagles are opportunistic hunters and will also feed on other water birds, small mammals, and carrion.
Bald Eagles have a strong, hooked beak and powerful talons that enable them to grasp and carry their prey. Their beak is perfectly adapted for tearing apart their food, while their sharp talons allow them to catch and hold onto fish or other prey.
Bald Eagles engage in elaborate courtship displays. These displays involve high-flying aerial acrobatics, where a mated pair will lock talons and perform cartwheels in the air, then separate just before reaching the ground.
They are known for their large and conspicuous nests, which they build in tall trees. They often choose trees near water bodies, providing them with easy access to food. These nests, known as aeries, are made of sticks, branches, and twigs, and are lined with softer materials such as grasses, moss, or feathers. The nests can be massive, reaching sizes up to 10 feet in diameter and weighing hundreds of pounds sometimes collapsing the underlying tree.
Bald Eagles usually return to the same nest year after year, adding new materials and expanding it as needed. The nests are typically built in the upper branches of large, sturdy trees, providing security for the growing family. Females typically lay 1 to 3 white eggs about the size of a chicken egg in early spring, .
Both the male and female Bald Eagles take turns incubating the eggs, which lasts around 35 days. During this time, they carefully regulate the temperature and protect the eggs from potential dangers. Once the eggs hatch, the parents feed and protect the young eaglets. The chicks grow rapidly, and the parents provide them with a steady diet of fish and other prey.
After around 10 to 12 weeks, the young eaglets become capable of flight and leave the nest. However, they continue to rely on their parents for food and guidance for several weeks more. Bald Eagles do not necessarily migrate in the traditional sense, but they may undertake seasonal movements in response to food availability and changing weather conditions. Some individuals from northern areas may migrate south during the winter to find open water and abundant prey.
Bald Eagles are known for their distinctive appearance. Adult eagles have a white head and tail, contrasting with their dark brown body. They also have a large wingspan, reaching up to 7 feet, which aids them in soaring effortlessly. Some Bald Eagles live up to 30 years or more with some individuals even reaching their 40s.