Ed Golson Outdoor Education

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle ( Endangered Species )

Scientific Name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Description:  This is the United States national bird. These large raptors (bird of prey) are easily distinguishable with their white head and tail.  Their white head and tail feathers don't show up until the eagles are 3 to 5 years old (adults).  Its feet and beak are bright yellow.  These birds can grow up to three feet tall with a wingspan of about 8 feet, and can weight up to 15 1/2 lbs.  Eagles can soar a long time without flapping their wings.  When these birds make calls to each other, the sound is often described as a high pitch shrill, and some twittering. The eyesight of these birds is amazing; they can see fish in the water from hundreds of feet away.  Eagles can live a long time. They have the ability to live up to 45 years in the wild, but many don't live past their first year.  Eagle pairs stay together their whole lives.  The male and female care for the eaglets.  

Habitat:  These birds tend to live by streams where they can catch fish.  Many of these birds reside in Alaska, but there are also large concentrations of them in Michigan, Oregon, and Washington.  They build nests called eeries high up in trees.  They use the same nest year after year and these nests can become very large - up to 9 feet wide and 20 feet tall!

Feeding:  The main diet of these birds is fish, more specifically salmon.  Although these birds enjoy fish they will eat water birds, small mammals, dead animals and garbage. They hunt with their strong talons (claws), but it is less work for them to scavenge or steal their food.  Eagles will fly at ospreys (fish hawks) to make them drop their captured fish.  Then the eagle catches the stolen fish and flies away to eat it.

Why Are They Endangered?  Unfortunately, the bald eagle had been endangered for a long time due the chemical DDT that washed into streams . This pesticide was in the water and got into the fishes' blood stream. Then the bald eagle would eat the fish, which caused the toxins to get into the birds. When they would lay their eggs, the toxin caused the shell to be weak and fragile.  Few of these eggs ever hatched.  Thanks to strict regulations on DDT, the bald eagle has been moved to the threatened species list, but there are still many laws in place designed to protect it.  The eagle's biggest problem is loss of habitat (places to hunt and build nests).  



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