Bald Eagle

(Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Bald Eagle


The bald eagle was officially adopted as the U.S. national emblem on June 20, 1782.


Recovered, except for the Sonoran Desert population in Arizona which is still threatened. 


80,000 to 110,000 eagles exist in the wild; 9,789 breeding pairs in the lower 48 states as of 2006 (1).


Habitat loss because of development in coastal areas, PCB poisoning, and shooting for feathers.


Over 30 years in the wild; longer in captivity.

The majesty and strength represented by the bald eagle are world renowned. The eagle is referred to as "bald" because of the white plumage on its head. Eagles can reach flight speeds between 35 and 44 miles per hour.

One of the largest raptors, the bald eagle is 32 to 40 inches long with a wingspan of 6 to 8 feet. Males are smaller than females.

Eagles can be found in Canada, Alaska and the lower 48 states and typically inhabit Seacoasts, forests, valleys, mountain regions, lakes and rivers.

Bald eagles eat fish, waterfowl, and small to medium mammals. They kill their prey with their talons (feet and claws) and use their beaks for tearing flesh.

Bald Eagles often mate for life. They build their nests in the limbs of tall trees, and return to them year after year with new additions of mosses and sticks. Nests can reach 5 feet across, 2 feet high and weigh 4,000 pounds.

Once paired, the female lays two eggs in the spring. After 35 days one or two chicks hatch. If two are hatched, usually only the chick that is more aggressive, and takes most of the food, survives. At 15 weeks of age, the young permanently leaves the nest.

The use of the pesticide DDT in this century poisoned eagles' foods and weakened eggshells, making them too thin to support the weight of brooding parents. A 1972 ban on DDT led to gradual improvements in population.


Bald eagles are found in Glacier Bay National Park, AK; Kenai Fjords National Park, AK; Assateague Island National Seashore, MD; Yellowstone National Park, WY; Olympic National Park, WA; North Cascades National Park, WA; Glacier National Park, MT; Grand Teton National Park, WY; Acadia National Park, ME; and Voyageurs National Park, MN.


 1. "Chart and Table of Bald Eagle Breeding Pairs in Lower 48 States." U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Midwest Region. 2008. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website. 12 Jan. 2010 < >




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