Bald Eagles

Introduction

The bald eagle is the national bird of the United States and is found throughout North America: Alaska, Canada, the United States and Northern Mexico. Generally, they are found near large bodies of water as that is where they can find a plentiful food source. In addition to being close to large bodies of water, they tend to nest in tall trees so they have a good view of everything in the area. They are not really bald, the term comes from an old reference meaning "white headed."

It is estimated that in the 1700s, there were roughly 300,000-500,000 bald eagles in the United States. Then, due to pesticides, lead, and other threatening factors, the numbers dropped significantly, and it was estimated that at the lowest point, there were only 500 nesting pairs. Once the bald eagles fell into the nearly extinct category, efforts were made to repopulate them. Through all the hard work of human intervention, there are now over 70,000 bald eagles throughout Alaska, Canada, and the United States. Roughly 35,000 live in Alaska, and the other 35,000 are spread throughout Canada and the United States.

Description

Both male and female bald eagles look alike, although the females are slightly larger in size and more aggressive. 

Juvenile/immature bald eagles are those under the age of three. They are a brownish color and have white on their undersides with a black beak and yellow feet. Their wingspans are slightly larger than the wingspan of an adult bald eagle.

Sub-adult bald eagles are those roughly three to four years of age. Their heads and tails gradually turn white during this time as they begin to get their adult coloring. They are often called "dirty birds" because they actually look dirty.

Adult bald eagles are those roughly five and older. They are all brown with white heads, necks and tail feathers. They have yellow beaks and feet. At this point they generally pair up and find their mate for life.  The average weight of an adult bald eagle is roughly 10-14 lbs. The body length of a female is approximately 35-37 inches with a wingspan of 79-90 inches, and the body length of a male is approximately 30-36 inches with a wingspan of 72-85 inches.

Diet

The main food source for a bald eagle is fish; however, they do sit on the top of the food chain and will eat other small animals such as rodents, snakes, rabbits and ducks. Due to the bald eagle being a natural predator and on the top of the food chain, they are vulnerable to many perils. One of the biggest problems they face is lead poisoning from lead weights used in fishing and lead bullets used in hunting. Another big issue they face is pesticides poisoning. Both lead and pesticides are deadly; therefore, if you are a fisherman or a hunter, please keep these things in mind and use other items when fishing or hunting. Bald eagles who are able to avoid these nasty perils can live up to 30 years out in the wild.

Reproduction

During the bald eagle breeding season, a new pair of bald eagles will build a nest using sticks, mud, and grass/hay. If it is not the pair’s first breeding season, they tend to clean and reuse the nest they used in previous years. The nests are very large, generally weigh up to a ton, and are roughly eight feet wide. Roughly five to ten days after mating, the female will lay one to three eggs and both the male and female will take turns sitting on the eggs during the 34-36 days of incubation. When the eaglets hatch they have light grey downy feathers and they do not necessarily all hatch on the same day. If there is more than one, they often are hatched on different days and the older one tends to develop quicker and be more aggressive in getting food than its siblings. 

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