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Interesting Facts About The Bald Eagle

The Bald Eagle is a species of sea eagle found in most parts of North America. The scientific name for this animal is Haliaeetus leucocephalus, which comes from the Greek words hali, aeetus, leuco and cephalis meaning salt, eagle, white and head. There are two known subspecies of Bald Eagle, which are known as H. l. leucocephalus and H. l. washingtoniensis. Let’s find out some more fun facts about the Bald Eagle.

An adult bald eagle sitting in a tree

Interesting Facts About The Bald Eagle

  • The Bald Eagle is not actually bald, but gets its name from their white head which is contrasted by their dark colored body. Juvenile birds do not have a white head and this develops in the 4th or 5th year when they reach breeding age. Their beak and feet remain bright yellow throughout their life.
  • It is believed that Bald Eagles breed for life, but will choose a new partner if the other dies. In the lead up to breeding the pair put on an impressive flight display together. These birds usually nest in large trees near the water and create the largest nests of any bird in North America. They nest in the same spot and add to the nest each year. One of the largest nests found reached 6.1 m (13 ft) deep and 2.5 m (8.2 ft) across with a weight of about 1 metric ton! Bald Eagles produce between 1 and 3 eggs per year and both the male and female take turns to incubate the eggs. They live for about 20 years in the wild, but they can live for up to 50 years in captivity.
  • A full sized member of the species will have a body length of 70–102 cm (28–40 in), a wingspan of 1.8-2.3 m (5.9 and 7.5 ft) and a weight between 2.5-7 kg (5.5-15 lbs). The females are the largest members of the species and are usually about 25% larger than the males.
  • The Bald Eagle eats mainly fish, but will also eat small to medium mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and crustaceans. Their prey is usually smaller than the bird, but on occasion they catch animals larger than themselves. They are also known for feeding on dead carcasses especially during winter. They have powerful talons, which they use for catching fish, capable of carrying up to 6.8 kg (15 lbs). In some cases the birds are dragged into the water by a large fish. When this occurs they are susceptible to drowning and hypothermia. They have no natural predators, but do sometimes fight for territory with the Golden Eagle.
  • The Bald Eagle was very important to many Native American tribes. The feathers were, and continue to be, used in traditional ceremonies.
  • The Bald Eagle is the national bird of the United States and can be found on a number of official government items such as logos, coins, stamps and seals. The animal is prominent on the Seal of the President of the United States where it is featured with a olive branch in one talon and arrows in the other.
  • Although the bird was protected in Canada and the United States since the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty in 1967 the Bald Eagle was declared an endangered species. There are a number of factors that led to a decline in the population, but the biggest danger to the eagle was the use of the pesticide DDT. This pesticide made many birds sterile and reduced the strength of the eggs in those birds that could reproduce. The population has improved since DDT was banned and it has since been delisted from the official List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.
  • Bald Eagles are not often kept in captivity and a permit is required to do this in the United States. These permits are usually only issued for injured birds that are shown to the public in bird displays.

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