Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Birds

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

COMMON NAME: bald eagle
KINGDOM: Animalia
PHYLUM: Chordata
CLASS: Aves
ORDER: Falconiformes
FAMILY: Accipitridae
GENUS SPECIES: Haliaeetus (sea eagle) leucocephalus (white head)

FAST FACTS

DESCRIPTION: Mature adults have a white head and tail, solid brown body, and a large, curved, yellow bill. Juveniles have blotchy patches of white on their underside and tail.
SIZE: Approximately 1 m (3 ft.) in height; 2.3 m (7 ft.) wingspan
WEIGHT:  
MALE 3.5-4 kg (8-9 lb.)
FEMALE 4.5-6 kg (10-14 lb.)
DIET: Prefers fish swimming close to the water's surface; also feeds on small mammals, waterfowl, wading birds, and dead animal matter (carrion)
INCUBATION: 31-45 days
SEXUAL MATURITY: Approximately 4-5 years
LIFE SPAN: Up to 30 years in wild, longer in captivity
RANGE: North America from Alaska and Canada south into Florida and Baja, California
HABITAT: Live and nest near coastlines, rivers, lakes, wet prairies, and coastal pine lands
POPULATION: GLOBAL Unknown
STATUS: IUCN Threatened
CITES Appendix I
USFWS Threatened

FUN FACTS

1. The bald eagle is not really bald; it actually has white feathers on its head, neck, and tail. Bald is a deviation of balde, an Old English word meaning white. The eagle was named for its white feathers instead of a lack of feathers.
2. Bald eagles may use the same nest year after year, adding more twigs and branches each time. One nest was found that had been used for 34 years and weighed over two tons.
3. The bald eagle can fly 20-40 mph in normal flight and can dive at speeds over 100 mph.
4. Bald eagles can actually swim! They use an overhand movement of the wings that is very much like the butterfly stroke.
5. More than 80% of the bald eagle population in the southeastern United States is concentrated within the state of Florida.
6. For more information about raptors, explore the RAPTOR INFOBOOK.

ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION

Bald eagles are a very important part of the environment. By eating dead animal matter, they help with nature's clean-up process. Bald eagles are also hunters, so they keep animal populations strong. They do this by killing weak, old, and slower animals, leaving only the healthiest to survive.

The bald eagle is the national symbol of the United States of America, so when it became threatened with extinction in the 1960s due to pesticide use, habitat loss, and other problems created by humans, people took notice.

For years the bald eagle was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Now the number of bald eagles has increased so much that in June 1994, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed that they be downgraded from endangered status to the less urgent status of threatened in all but three of the lower 48 states. The success of the bald eagle is a tribute to the Endangered Species Act and is an incentive for increased awareness and conservation everywhere.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Brown, L. and D. Amadon. Eagles, Hawks and Falcons of the World. New Jersey: Wellfleet Press, 1989.

Laycock, G. "All-American Survivor". Wildlife Conservation, July-August, 1991. pp. 38-46.

Lee, G. "Bald Eagle Soars Off Endangered List". The Tampa Tribune, June 30, 1994.

Savage, C. Eagles of North America. Wisconsin: Northwood Press, 1987.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "Bald Eagle: Hope Flies to Freedom from Near". Hadley, Mass: PR Newswire, June 30, 1994.