Bald eagle

Latin Name
Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Class
Birds

Order
Falconiformes

Description

An imposing bird, the bald eagle can range from 2–3 feet in height and have a wingspan measuring 7–8 feet. The species gains its name from the white feathers covering the heads of mature birds. Immature bald eagles lack the familiar white head; their feathers are uniformly brown.


 

Range

Canada to Mexico


Status

Threatened. Excessive hunting and DDT pollution nearly rendered the bald eagle extinct in the contiguous United States, but federal protection and conservation programs have helped the species rebound from endangered status.


Habitat

Lakes, rivers and coastal areas


Niche

The bald eagle prefers fish but will also prey on birds and small mammals. In addition to being a successful hunter, the species will also steal prey from other predatory birds and mammals.


Life History

The bald eagle builds its nests from sticks at the top of trees that can exceed 100 feet in height. The bird returns to the same nest year after year; as new sticks are added on, the nests can approach eight feet in height and weigh more than a ton. Females typically lay two eggs, and incubation lasts five-six weeks. After hatching, both males and females hunt for food to bring back to the nest to feed chicks.


Special Adaptations
  • The bald eagle's sharp eyesight enables it to spot prey hundreds of feet below while flying.
  • The species' strong talons and sharp beak enable it to firmly grasp and tear the fish, birds and mammals it catches.


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