Bald Eagles are amazing and familiar birds, and birders and non-birders alike all know a little about these famous raptors. But how much do you really know about the Bald Eagle? These fun facts and trivia tidbits may surprise you!
12 Amazing Facts About Bald Eagles
1. There are over 60 eagle species in the world, but the Bald Eagle is the only one that is found exclusively in North America, from Canada to northern Mexico. The Golden Eagle is also found in North America but is a common raptor in Europe, Asia, and Africa as well.
2. While the name Bald Eagle is the bird’s most common name, it is also called the American Eagle, American Bald Eagle, or just eagle. To be sure of which bird is meant, ornithologists will often use its scientific name, Haliaeetus leucocephalus.
3. Bald Eagles are powerful carnivores and eat mostly fish, with more than 100 species of fish documented as their prey. These raptors will also hunt other animals, however, including gulls, ducks, snakes, beavers, coots, rabbits, muskrats, seals, ground squirrels, and even turtles.
4. These raptors use their long, broad wings for soaring on rising warm-air currents called thermals. They will soar up to 10,000 feet high and can reach speeds as fast as 40 miles per hour when flying.
5. Bald Eagles cannot swim, but with their hollow bones and lightweight plumage, they do float well. If a Bald Eagle catches an especially heavy fish, it may stay floating on the water and use its wings to row to shore because it can’t take off without letting go of its prize.
6. It takes a young Bald Eagle four to five years to reach sexual maturity, and they don’t develop their characteristic white head until they are fully adults. When they do take a mate, these birds will mate for life, only acquiring a new mate if their partner dies.
7. A mated pair of Bald Eagles will reuse the same nest year after year. The nest is made of sticks, twigs, and corn stalks and is lined with feathers and moss. Bald Eagle nests can get as large as 5-8 feet wide and 2 feet deep and may weigh as much as a ton or more.
8. The Bald Eagle was named the national bird of the United States in 1787 and is part of the presidential seal and many different federal emblems. The Bald Eagle is also depicted on coins and is a popular mascot for schools and sports teams. Go Eagles!
9. Hollywood often gets Bald Eagles wrong. That long, piercing scream used in movies with Bald Eagles? That’s actually the call of a Red-tailed Hawk! Bald Eagles have a high-pitched, whinny-like cackling or laughing call. Have a listen to both:
10. In the wild, Bald Eagles can live for 25-30 years. In captivity, these birds may live as long as 35-40 years or more. Captive Bald Eagles are often found in zoos and aviaries, where naturalists have permits to keep raptors that are unable to be released into the wild.
11. Bald Eagles were first listed as endangered in 1967 when their numbers were dwindling because of DDT poisoning. Thanks to recovery efforts, however, the birds were removed from the endangered list in 1995, and in 2007, they were removed from the threatened list as well.
12. Just because eagles are no longer threatened doesn’t mean they don’t face dangerous hazards. Collisions with power lines, wind turbines, and vehicles, as well as lead poisoning, oil spills, poaching, and other threats continue to cause problems for Bald Eagles today.
The more we know about Bald Eagles, the better we can understand these majestic birds, appreciate their uniqueness, and take steps to help conserve them so many future generations can enjoy them just as much as we do.