There are about 60 species of Eagles. Most of these are native to tropical regions, particularly in Africa and Asia. Only two species, the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle, are native to the continental United States and Canada. The Bald Eagle is the more widespread of the two in the United States. This large, predatory bird is found throughout the world, except in Antarctica and where people have killed them off or destroyed their habitat.
The Bald Eagle, chosen as the United States of America’s national bird in 1782, symbolizes courage, freedom and power.
Bald Eagles are usually careful to stay away from danger, thus, they try to stay away from humans. They have become more accustomed to people over the past 30 years however, because of our own expansion into their territory. So when trying to locate Bald Eagles, the best thing to do is to start by spotting their nests.
Nests of Bald Eagles are called aeries. They usually build their aeries in the tops of tall trees that are near water, and some even nest on cliffs. Bald Eagles tend to use the same aeries every year, but they may have more than one, alternating from one year to the next. These nests are very large (up to 10 feet across and 15 feet deep), built from twigs and sticks, and lined with fresh leaves while they’re using it. When they use the same aerie year after year, they build on to it (just like humans do with their homes!). So, the larger the aerie you find, the older the dwelling.
Bald Eagles don’t migrate in the sense that Robins and Bluebirds do. They only travel as far as they have to, in order to find food. This is particularly true of adult Bald Eagles with established territories. Adults will stay in their territory (roughly 1 – 6 square miles) year round as long as there is open water nearby where they can hunt. Should a severe winter limit the food supply, Bald Eagles will move as far south as necessary to find open water and suitable feeding grounds.
The male Bald Eagle hunts only during the day, and many times will hunt with another male. Their main food is fish. If fish isn’t available, they will attack and eat water birds, occasionally catching birds in the air with spectacular aerial maneuvering. They will also capture mammals, and sometimes eat carrion (decaying flesh).
Some interesting facts about Bald Eagles:
- Bald Eagles are not really bald. The head is covered with white feathers. The tail is also white. A young Bald Eagle is dark brown and has scattered light markings.
- The Bald Eagle’s eyes are located on the side of its head; however, it can see straight ahead.
- Female Bald Eagles are generally larger than males. Wingspreads range from about 4 to 8 feet (1.2 to 2.4 meters). Most Eagles weigh about 7 to 12 pounds (3.2 to 5.4 kilograms), but some weigh as much as 20 pounds (9.1 kilograms).
- Bald Eagles rarely attack except when cornered. A few species of Eagles may attack when defending their nests and young.