COMMON NAME: Bald eagle
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Wingspan 6.5-8 feet; length 31-37 inches. Adults have a dark brown body with a white head and tail, yellow eyes and beak. Immature eagles are all dark with some white mottled in the wings and tail. The eyes and beak are dark. As the birds mature around 4-5 years of age, they start getting the white head and tail, and the the eyes and beak start turning yellow.
Formerly distributed across North America, they are now limited to breeding in Alaska, Canada, the northern Great Lakes states, Florida, and the Pacific Northwest. In Minnesota they commonly breed on northern lakes and along the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers. Bald eagles move south for the winter to open water areas that attract large numbers of waterfowl or fish. In Minnesota, this includes the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers and sometimes lakes in the southern part of the state.
Bald eagles nest on the edges of rivers, lakes, or seashores. In winter and during migration, they can be found where there is open water offering sufficient food and evening roost sites.
Bald eagles build large stick nests (sometimes weighing over a ton) that are usually about six feet in diameter and more than six feet tall. Nests are built near the top of the largest trees near a river or lake. The birds start nesting in Minnesota in March when the female lays from one to three eggs. The male and female share incubation duties. The young hatch after 35 days and grow very quickly being ready to leave the nest at between 10 and 12 weeks of age.
Bald eagles commonly feed on fish that they catch themselves, find dead, or pirate from other birds such as ospreys. They also feed on a variety of carrion or live prey including waterfowl and other birds, turtles, and rabbits. Road-killed deer are a favorite and thus lead to many eagles being hit by cars.
RAPTOR CENTER DATA:
One of our most common patients, we often receive bald eagles that have been shot, caught in leg hold traps, poisoned, or hit by moving vehicles. Eagles are very difficult birds to maintain in captivity due to their size, strength, and wild nature. We have been involved for many years in reintroduction programs being conducted throughout the Midwest. Other TRC programs include investigations into the effects of lead poisoning, the incidence of chemical contamination in nestling eagles, and the location and use of winter roost areas.
The bald eagle was removed from the endangered species list on July 9, 2007.