Bald Eagle | Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Length: around 3 feet
Wingspan: females – 7 feet, males – 6 feet
Weight: 10-14 lbs
Lifespan: 20-30 years
Population: 5,000 mating pairs
The Bald Eagle is the only eagle unique to North America and is the United States’ national symbol. The Bald Eagle is an Endangered Species Act success story. This series' purpose is to highlight species at risk of extinction and threatened by any number of things from habitat loss due to human encroachment, poaching and human predation, and effects of global climate change, but this post is highlighting one of our nation's greatest efforts to reverse our human impact.
Decades ago, the population of the Bald Eagle dropped drastically and was on the brink of extinction. The Bald Eagle was threatened by the degradation and destruction of its habitat, the illegal hunting and shooting of the species, and the contamination of its food source largely caused by DDT.
The Bald Eagle was removed from the federal list of endangered species on August 9, 2007 after nearly disappearing from most of the United States. The species is now thriving across the nation and no longer needs the protection of the Endangered Species Act. They are still protected by the Migratory Bird Treat Act and Bald and Golden Eagle Act, however. There were two main factors that led to the recovery of the bald eagle – the banning of DDT pesticides and the protection of their habitat by the ESA.
The distinctive brown body and white head and tail make it easy to recognize from a distance. Bald Eagles are dark brown until they are four or five years old, when they acquire that characteristic coloring. The birds live near lakes, marshes, and rivers where they have easy access to their main source of food - fish. They may also eat other small animals, including waterfowl, snakes, turtles, and rabbits.
The Bald Eagle very rarely flaps its wings, but instead soars, holding its wings almost completely flat. They travel great distances but typically return to nesting grounds within 100 miles of where they were born. Hatchlings start flying withing three months and are on their own about a month later. Bald Eagles mate for life and enlarge their nests each year.
Sources: US Fish and Wildlife Services