Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus
31-37 inches (79-94 cm) W 70-90 inches (178-229 cm)
• Dark brown above and below
• Whitwe head and tail
• Large yellow bill
• Immature: brown overall with white mottling
• Sexes similar
• Very large, broad-winged, broad-tailed hawk
• Rounded wings
• Thick, hooked bill
• Plucks fish from water with talons
• White head and upper neck
• White tail
• Dark brown body plumage
• Yellow bill
• Dark bill and dark cere
• Dark brown body plumage, including head and tail
• Variable amounts of white on underwing coverts, belly, and back
• White head and tail, and dark underwings are gradually acquired in four years
• Turkey Vulture has a tiny, unfeathered head, holds its wings in a dihedral, and has contrastingly paler flight feathers. Golden Eagle can be quite similar to immature Balds, or to adults at a distance but is all dark as an adult and as an immature has white restricted to the bases of the flight feathers and the bases of the tail feathers. The white is confined to crisp patches on the wing and tail, and is not blotchily scattered about underwings coverts as in immature Bald Eagles. Immature Golden Eagles have yellow ceres while immature Balds have dark ceres.
Along the coast and near large lakes, rivers. Nests on cliffs or in tall trees, usually near large bodies of water. Often perches on exposed limbs of tall trees near water. Eats fish, attracted to salmon runs (e.g. Chilkat River, Alaska in November.) In winter, often found in large concentrations near dams, wildlife refuges with ice-free water (Klamath/Tule NWR in California), along Mississippi River. Official bird of the United States.
NESTING & FEEDING:
BREEDING: Coasts, rivers and large lakes in open areas. 1 brood. Mating system is monogamous.
DISPLAYS: Spectacular aerial courtship, including locking talons and descending in series of somersaults.
NEST: Often in fork of tall tree; of large sticks, vegetation, etc., deeply lined with fine materials. Cliff nests range from minimal sticks to massive structure. Occasionally more than 1 nest. Perennial, known to use more than 35 years. Both sexes help with nest construction.
EGGS: two bluish-white, often nest-stained. 3.0" (76 mm).
CHICK DEVELOPMENT: Both sexes incubate. Incubation takes 34-36 days. Development is semialtricial (immobile, downy, eyes open, fed). Young are able to fly after 70-98 days. Both sexes tend young.
DIET: Especially salmon, up to 15 pounds (often dead or dying); also small mammals (especially rabbits), waterfowl and seabirds, carrion, rarely other vertebrates.
CONSERVATION: Winters s to coastal Baja. Endangered Species in most of U.S.; Threatened Species in Washington, Oregon, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan. U.S. breeding population outside Alaska in 1982 less than 1500 pairs; declined due to habitat loss and reproductive impairment from pesticides and heavy metals.
NOTES: Adopted as U.S. national emblem in 1782 because of fierce demeanor; in fact, somewhat timid carrion-feeder. Long-term pair bond. Young hatch asynchronously; smallest often dies. Concentrations of 3000-4000 birds occur along Chiklat River, Alaska, during salmon run. Immature birds often pirate fish from other species (especially crows); piracy from other Bald Eagles rarely successful.
Haliaeetus leucocephalus BALD EAGLE. Lakes, rivers, seacoasts. Locally in N. America from wc,nc Alaska (Brooks Range, Commander Islands), n Yukon, nw,sc Mackenzie, and from n Saskatchewan e across c Canada to Labrador and Newfoundland, and s to Aleutian Is. (w to Buldir), s Alaska, coastal,sc Washington, coastal sc Oregon, nc Calif., Baja Calif. (both coasts, formerly?), Idaho, w,nw,sc Wyoming, locally in sc Arizona, sw,nc,ne Colorado, wc,e Montana, sw,c Alberta, sw,sc Saskatchewan, s Manitoba, c Minnesota, n Wisconsin and e to New York and New England, s along the Atlantic coast to Florida, incl. Florida Keys; formerly sw,c New Mexico, se Texas and Gulf coast. Winters s to w Sonora, Nayarit, nc Mexican plateau in Chihuahua, Durango, Coahuila and probably Zacatecas, and coastal Tamaulipas and n Veracruz. Numbers increasing and range expanding after severe decline. Re-introduced in some areas, e.g., coastal c California.