Facts about Bald Eagles

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1.An American National Symbol

In 1782, America adopted the bald eagle as a national symbol. At that time, there were about one hundred thousand nesting bald eagles in the United States. However, the number of the bald eagle species started declining between mid and late 1800’s. This decline coincided with that of shorebirds and waterfowls. Bald eagle is a North American bird species with historic range in Canada, Alaska and northern Mexico.

2.Physical Features

Bald eagles have a distinguishing white tail feathers and white head. They are brown powerful birds with an 8 feet wingspan and a weight of up to 14 pounds. Male bald eagles tend to be smaller. They have a 6-feet wingspan and weigh up to 10 pounds. Bald eagles are often confused with golden eagles. Bald eagles maintain a dark brown color until they attain 4 or 5 years of age. The major difference between golden and bald eagles is that bald eagles only have feathers on the top part of their legs while golden eagles have feathers all through down.

3.Habitation and Feeding

Bald eagles live in places where they can access their staple food, fish. Their habitations are mostly close to lakes, rivers and marshes. Their habitats also include estuaries, seacoasts, reservoirs, and large lakes. Bald eagles need good perching areas, food base and nesting sites. They are also known to feed on turtles, waterfowl, snakes, rabbits, and other carrion or tiny animals. During winter, they tend to converge on tall trees close to open waters from where they can spot prey and root for shelter at night.


Bald eagles opt to put up their nests on top of huge trees. They use these nests and expand them each year. Bald eagle nests can reach up to 10 feet in length and weigh about half a ton. Sometimes they also set up several alternate nests in their breeding locality. In areas where there are no trees, bald eagles nest on the ground or in cliffs. Though they travel long distances, they often go back to their breeding grounds which are located within 100 mile radius of their raising place.


Bald eagles mate throughout life and females lay a maximum of three eggs one each year. The birds hatch after 35 years and their eaglets fly within the first 3 months. They are left on their own after a month of learning flight.

6.Life Span

Bald eagles have a lifespan of between 15 and 25 years when living in the wild. They can live longer than this when domesticated. The major factors that curtail bald eagle lifespan include disease, harsh weather, lack of food and human interference. At least 70% of bald eagle eaglets survive their initial year of life.

7.Declining Population

Though bald eagles feed on carrion and fish primarily, they were considered marauders in early 19th century because they preyed on domestic livestock such as lambs and chicken. Huge raptors were therefore introduced to eliminate them as they were perceived a threat. This coupled with their declining nesting habitat led to declining bald eagle populations and threatened their extinction.

 8.Saving Bald Eagles

The Bald Eagle Protection Act was passed in 1940 and revised in 1962 to include Golden Eagle to save the birds. The laws prohibited selling, owning or killing these bird species.

9.Threat of DDT

DD pesticide used to control insects including mosquitos was introduces after the Second World War. It residue found its way to waterways and was absorbed by fish. Bald eagles’ reproduction was affected after feeding on contaminated fish and by 1963, only 487 bald eagle nesting pairs remained.

10.Endangered and Threatened Species

The Bald Eagle was listed as an endangered species in 48 lower states except 5 where it is listed as a threatened species.

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