Bald Eagle

bald eagle perching

The bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), found in North America, is a bird of prey. it has two known subspecies and forms a species pair with the white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), which occupies the same niche as the bald eagle in the Palearctic.

Its habitat covers most of Canada and Alaska, all of the United States, and the north of Mexico. It can be found near large bodies of open water with an abundant food supply and old-growth trees for nesting.

Bald eagles aren‘t really bald; the name comes from an older meaning of the word, “white headed”. An adult bird is brown with a white head and tail. The sexes are identical in plumage, but females are about 25 percent larger than males.

Its yellow beak is large and hooked. The plumage of the immature is brown.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, the bald eagle was given the status of “threatened” by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The decline in their population was due to the use of pesticides and other chemicals in their habitat. Now, the bald eagle is considered “least concern” by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Bald eagles, like many birds of prey, were especially affected by DDT due to thinning of their egg shells.

Powerful Wings

bald eagle wingspan
Credit: Peter K Burian, CC BY-SA 4.0

The bald eagle, a powerful flier, soars on rising air currents and other thermal convections. It reaches speeds of 56–70 km/h (35–43 mph) when gliding and flapping, and about 48 km/h (30 mph) while carrying fish.

Despite being less well adapted to faster flight than golden eagles (especially during dives), the bald eagle is considered surprisingly maneuverable in flight. Bald eagles have also been recorded catching up to and then swooping under geese in flight, turning over and thrusting their talons into the other bird’s breast.

Typical wingspan is between 1.8 and 2.3 m (5 ft 11 in and 7 ft 7 in) and mass is normally between 3 and 6.3 kg (6.6 and 13.9 lb). Females are about 25% larger than males, averaging as much as 5.6 kg (12 lb), and against the males’ average weight of 4.1 kg (9.0 lb).