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Bald Eagles: Facts You May Not Know

I love history and all the events that built our great country. I also love to travel and I love genealogy research.

Splendid Bald Eagle

Splendid Bald Eagle

Facts About Bald Eagles

The mature bald eagle has been the national symbol of the United States since 1782. The mature bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is not bald but has a white head and a brown body.

Pesticides, such as DDT, almost wiped out the eagle population in the first two-thirds of the 20th century. Shooting is another cause of their decline. They were put on the endangered species list in 1967. On June 28, 2007, they were taken off the list, and there are 10,000 nesting pairs at this time.

Bald Eagle's Catch

Bald Eagle's Catch

How Big Are They?

Bald eagles, both male and female, are large birds. The female tends to be approximately 25% larger than males, and they reach maturity and mate in 4-5 years.

As an adult, the color is primarily blackish-brown with a white head and tail, yellow claws, and they have a yellow, hooked beak. Their eyes are about the size of a human being, but their sharpness is four times better than a person with perfect vision. They do not actually have vocal cords, but they do make high-pitched shrills and twittering.

  • Length: 27.9–37.8 inches
  • Wingspan: Over 8 feet
  • Weight: Up to 14 pounds

The Eagle has landed.

— Neil Armstrong

Fun Facts

  • The further away from the Equator and the tropics, the larger the bird.
  • These birds may live up to 28 years in the wild, and 32 years when they are in captivity, although the average life span is 15-20 years.

Species Habitat: Where Are They Found?

Bald eagles can be found in all of North America and in northern Mexico. However, about half of the eagles (70,00) live in Alaska. British Columbia has another 20,000. Golden eagles live on other continents, but the bald eagle is only found in North America.

They live in the Northwest areas due to the salmon and dead or flying fish. This is the most important food source, although they also eat a variety of other things, such as carrion, rodents and smaller birds. They are known as opportunistic predators. They also live in other habitats like the bayous of Louisiana, throughout Texas and in New England.

Eagles can sit on the water using their wings as oars to hunt for fish. Some have drowned on occasions where their prey weighs too much. They can also fly very low across the water or land to seek prey. They do migrate toward water when rivers freeze over.

While these eagles may sit at the top of the food chain, they are vulnerable to toxic chemicals in fish and in the environment. Toxic chemicals tend to weaken their ability to produce, and their eggshells are weakened.

Males and females usually mate for life and build their nests together in very tall trees on cliffs. The nests are large and may be as high as 180’ in the tree. However, their nests can also be found on the ground on northern islands.

Their nests are usually made with a mound of sticks, then lined with softer material. The nest will grow over the years and become very large as the eagles tend to come back to it over the years.

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

— Isaiah 40:31-1

A Symbol for the U.S.

A Symbol for the U.S.

Facts About Eaglets

They usually lay 1–3 eggs and incubation lasts from 34–36 days. Both parents participate.

Read More From Pethelpful

For the first two weeks, one of the parents is always on the nest. The other parent looks for prey, which they tear into small pieces and feed to the babies. From 3–6 weeks, the young begin pecking on the food dropped into the nest. If a season occurs where food is scarce only the largest birds may survive. Their first flight occurs between 10–12 weeks.

It takes approximately 5 years for these babies to have adult plumage. When they are born, their feathers are a mixture of white and brown. They have a black beak, which doesn’t turn yellow until maturity at 5 years.

United States National Seal

United States National Seal

United States National Emblem

On June 20, 1782, the Continental Congress adopted the bald eagle design for the Great Seal of the United States. The seal depicts the species grasping an olive branch with 13 leaves and 13 arrows with his other talon.

“Contrary to popular legend, there is no evidence that Benjamin Franklin ever publicly supported the wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), rather than the bald eagle, as a symbol of the United States. He did write his daughter from Paris stating his person distaste for the eagle and he stated the bald eagle had 'bad moral character.'”

The official seal appears on most U.S. government documents. The seal is used to mark all correspondence from the president to Congress. The seal dates back to 1850, and maybe longer. The seal is also the official coat of arms, and it appears on the presidential flag.

From 1916 and 1946, the presidential flag had the eagle facing to the left, which started the urban legend that if it faces left toward the olive branch, that means peace. If it faces toward the arrows, it meant wartime.

Bald eagles are large birds that can have a rather vicious look at times with their curved beaks. They have such an interesting history and serve predominantly as the U.S. Great Seal.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: What are the relatives to the bald eagle?

Answer: There are 60 different species of eagles. They are birds of prey but they have no relatives.

© 2019 Pamela Oglesby


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 17, 2020:

Hi Peggy,

I learned a lot about eagles when I did the research and they are an interesting bird. I appreciate your comments. Stay healthy, Peggy.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 16, 2020:

This was interesting to read. I did not know that the bald eagles mated for life. That is amazing that some could drown because of clinging to large prey in the water. One would think that they would simply let the prey go if they were being dragged down into the water.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 04, 2019:

Hi Glen, Bald eagles are so interesting. I don't see them here either but I have seen them when traveling. I appreciate your comments.

Glen Rix from UK on June 03, 2019:

We do not see bald eagles in England but I saw one on an island in Vancouver Bay some years ago. We watched for a while, hoping that we would see it take flight, but it stubbornly stayed rooted on the shingle shore. The interesting facts that you have written about the bird brought back a pleasant memory. If I had known then what I have learned from your article, my enjoyment of the event would have been even greater.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 24, 2019:

Hi Maria, I do enjoy researching any topic I find an interest in, and I have written so many medical articles it is fun to stretch my wings.

I can't imagine shooting an eagle either. We need to protect our environment for all species in my opinion.

Thanks for your comments. Love and hugs Maria.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on March 23, 2019:

Eagles are so majestic - I enjoyed learning lots more about them in your well-researched article, dear Pam.

I'm happy to see that they are no longer on the extinction list. The thought of shooting these regal creatures is sickening - as well as the death / harmful effects to them from pesticides.

The range of your writing is impressive. You put heart and soul into exploring whatever topic you take on.

Love and hugs, Maria

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 17, 2019:

Hi Bill, Now that their population has grown I am not surprised that you have eagles in Western MA. They are drefinitely fascinating.

My mother and I spent some time in western MA several years ago doing genealogy research, and we had wonderful experiences there. The autumn was beautiful, and the people were so helpful.

Thanks for your comments.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on March 17, 2019:

Hi Pam. The Bald Eagle has found its way back to western Massachusetts in recent years and I always get excited at the sight of this majestic bird. I have always been fascinated by birds of prey, just beautiful creatures. Great job.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 17, 2019:

Ann, that sounds awesome to me. I would love that experience. Thanks.

Ann Carr from SW England on March 17, 2019:

The eagle did turn to look me in the eye which was rather daunting but I think it was more interested in the bits of food offered by the ranger. Such a close encounter was thrilling. These birds are totally mesmerising!


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 17, 2019:

Hello Ann, The eagles are amazing, and I like all birds. Your experience holding a large bird on your arm sounds like fun, assuming he does not peck you. :-)

I am glad you enjoyed this article and I appreciate your comments.

Ann Carr from SW England on March 17, 2019:

I love birds of prey and this one is magnificent. You've given us lots of interesting facts here; I especially like 'the further away from the Equator and the tropics the larger the bird' - I wonder why that is?

Also amazing is that it can sit on the water to look for fish!

When in Australia recently, I held a Wedge-tailed Eagle on my arm. It was very heavy and has a 7 foot wingspan. I can't imagine what the Bald Eagle must feel like!

We have some eagles in Scotland but I think the largest bird of prey here in England is the Red Kite. Our local raptors are the Buzzards, a common sight over the marshes nearby.

I enjoyed reading this; the photos are great and the added facts widen the scope of interest. Thank you.


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 16, 2019:

Hello Miebakagh, I envy you for seeing an eagle. i agree that being cautious of eagles is important. Thank you for your input into this discussion.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on March 16, 2019:

@ Alyssa, once I nearly saw an Eargle soaring down to earth to catch prey. Oh my God, how big and golden! As someone with a good knowledge of Eagles, I usually warn people not to interfere with the Eagles because of their sharp Tallon! It can be severed of your wrist. Thank you.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 16, 2019:

Hi Alyssa, I grew up in Lakewood, OH (a burburb of Cleveland), but I don't think they had the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge back then. I would love to see it, but I don't know when I will be traveling back. Thanks so much for telling about the refuge and for all your comments.

Alyssa from Ohio on March 16, 2019:

Oh my goodness! I just had to laugh at the Benjamin Franklin quote about eagles having a "bad moral character." hahaha! Eagles are absolutely majestic and give off that proud, quiet confidence. You know not to mess with one because you will regret it. I was surprised to learn that the further away from the equator, the bigger the bird. Although, my husband and I were watching a documentary on Netflix a few weeks ago, and they were following eagle hunters in Mongolia. Those eagles, golden I think, were huge! If you and your husband ever come to Ohio, stop up at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in Oak Harbor. It's in Northwest Ohio, up near Lake Erie. They host tours throughout the year, and one specifically for watching eagles. It's truly an amazing experience to see these birds in the wild. Excellent article! I will definitely be sharing :)

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on March 13, 2019:

Hi, John. welcome to the discussion.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 13, 2019:

Hi John, I really like eagles also. I'm glad you iked the article and appreciate the kind words. Thank you for commenting John.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on March 12, 2019:

This was very interesting Pamela. The eagle is my my favourite bird so I enjoyed this article and learnt a lot. Well done.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 12, 2019:

Hi Peg, I am so glad you found this article interesting. These bald eagles are surely majestic. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on March 12, 2019:

This majestic bird is a fascinating one and beautiful as well. I've seen an eagle's nest and it was huge. Wasn't aware that they had such a long lifespan. I loved learning about their history and of the fact that they've come back from near extinction.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on March 12, 2019:

Hello, Pamela, thank you for weighing in. I am glad you like my experience. You are welcomed.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 11, 2019:

Hi Liz. Thank you so much for your kind comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 11, 2019:

Hi Mary, I would love to see an eagle in the wild also. I have seen them in zoos. I am glad they are not endangered as well. Thank you so much for your commets.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 11, 2019:

Hello Miebakagh, That must have given you something to worry about since the large bird would eat the babies. The mother hen was protective than goodness. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Liz Westwood from UK on March 11, 2019:

This is an interesting and well-illustrated fact file on the bald eagle. I have learned a lot.

Mary Wickison from Brazil on March 11, 2019:

I've never seen them in the wild but would love to one day.

I have gone to falconry centers and zoos and seen them there. Their size is bigger than I thought.

As an icon, I think it holds a special place for many people. Thank goodness it is making a recovery and has been removed from the endangered list.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on March 11, 2019:

Hello, Pamela, you are welcomed. The Eargle is a very important bird in the "avecs" family. There was a time some15 years ago I rear some domestic birds for food. When the chicken hatch out, then we began to notice the eagles.

Are these bird emitting scents that attract the eagle? They began to hover above, and the mother chicken will hide her young under her wings. If the Eargle persists above, and attempt to capture one or two of the chicken, a fight between a mother hen and the Eargle results.

Thank you, are very much welcomed.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 11, 2019:

Hi Miebakagh, I think you made a good assumption. I appreciate your comments.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on March 11, 2019:

Hey, there, every person's comment is significant. I agreed that bald eagles are "majestic" birds, that is why I reasoned that they are the king of birds. Thank you all.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 11, 2019:

Hi Bill, That was all I knew until I started reading about them. They are majestyic. Thanks for your comments. Happy Monday!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 11, 2019:

Here's what I knew about bald eagles before this article: they are majestic and they are BIG! Thanks for the educational articles.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 11, 2019:

Hi Chitrangeda, I am glad your were able to learn some more facts about these large bald eagles. I appreciate your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 11, 2019:

Hi Flourish, I would love to have an eagles nest near my hourse like that. Thanks so much for your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 11, 2019:

Hi Patricia, I am so glad you enjoyed reading about these eagles. It is good to hear from you again and I hope all is well in your life. God bless you.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on March 10, 2019:

Great article about the bald eagles. Bald eagles are really very interesting creatures and thank you for sharing such important information about them, which I wasn’t aware of.

Thanks for sharing.

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 10, 2019:

We have eagles that have been nesting for many years near the river close to our house. Their nest is so enormous you’d find it hard to believe. They are beautiful and it’s sad that humans’ bad habits can impact them so much.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on March 10, 2019:

Thank you for showcasing this amazing bird. It literally takes my breath away when I have the opportunity to see one. Angels are headed your way this spring-forward

Ellison Hartley from Maryland, USA on March 10, 2019:

You are very welcome!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 10, 2019:

Hello Eman, I am glad you enjoyed the article. Thanks for your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 10, 2019:

Hi Miebakagh, I didn't know that about Nigeria. I am so glad you liked this article. I appreciate your comments, as always.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 10, 2019:

Hi Ellison, I would love to see them too. I am glad you enjoyed the article. Thanks for your comments.

Eman Abdallah Kamel from Egypt on March 10, 2019:

Thank you for this informative article about Bald Eagles.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on March 10, 2019:

Hello, Pamela, the Eargle has a fascinating history. I think these great birds or the King of all birds. My country Nigeria has an Eargle on its coats of arm, like that of the United States. They are many other countries likewise. Thanks, for sharing this precious story.

Ellison Hartley from Maryland, USA on March 10, 2019:

This is a great article. I'm lucky that where I live we see bald eagles frequently, sometimes daily!

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