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 Forum Index > Eagle Nests Across North America - and the World > Eagles - General Information, Q & A's and in the News
 Eagles - Questions and Answers
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By: jkr (offline) on Tuesday, January 05 2010 @ 11:45 AM EST (Read 27228 times)  

Frequently Asked Questions is intended as a guide to understanding the basic biology of the Bald Eagle. They do not apply to any one nest in particular, but the Bald Eagle in general.

If you have more questions regarding eagles please post them here and someone will find the answers for you whenever possible.



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By: jkr (offline) on Tuesday, January 05 2010 @ 11:49 AM EST  

Frequently Asked Questions about the Bald Eagle

What does a Bald Eagle look like?
Adult Bald Eagles have white heads and tails and dark brown bodies. They have large yellow feet with sharp talons and a large yellow beak and almond eyes. They can weigh up to 14 pounds (6.5 kg) and their wings can stretch to over 7 feet (2 meters) across.

Why are they called Bald Eagles?
Bald Eagles are not bald at all, but have a white head. Hundreds of years ago the English word for WHITE was BALDE and the word piebald meant mottled with white, so the eagles with white heads were called Balde Eagles.

Where do Bald Eagles live?
Bald Eagles live primarily along the waterways: the seashore, lakes, rivers and ponds. Bald Eagles live only in North America and all the way from Alaska to Florida.

How long do Bald Eagles live?
Bald Eagles kept in captivity can live 40 years or more. Although we don’t know for sure, we think that in the wild Bald Eagles may live to be 30 or a little older.

What do Bald Eagles eat?
Bald Eagles are primarily scavengers. Whenever possible they find and eat dead food like spawned-out salmon or road-killed animals. Their favorite food is fish, but they will eat small mammals like rabbits and water birds like ducks or gulls. Certainly bald eagles can hunt birds, particularly coots and wounded waterfowl, but they generally prefer to spend less energy on scavenged carcasses.

How well can a Bald Eagle see?
Bald Eagles see about 7 times better than people can. One thousand feet (300 meters) up in the air, a Bald Eagle can spot its prey over 3 square miles (8 square km). The binocular vision, where both eyes focus forward on the same object, enables them to have very accurate depth perception. Each eye can also see out the side. This is monocular vision and is very efficient at detecting motion.

What kind of sound does a Bald Eagle make?
Bald Eagles do not have very many kinds of calls. Their voice sounds something like a gull’s scream but in a series of notes. The female tends to have a lower sounding voice, while the male’s voice is higher and more like a scream.

How many feathers does a Bald Eagle have?

Bald Eagles have between 7000 and 7200 feathers.

How fast can a Bald Eagle fly?
A flying Bald Eagle can reach speeds of about 75 miles (120 km) per hour. When going long distances or just moving around their territory they tend to fly 20–30 miles (30–50 km) an hour. In a dive they can probably exceed 100 miles per hour.

Do Bald Eagles sweat when they get hot?
No, they have no sweat glands. To cool themselves, they open their mouths and pant. They also will hold their wings out from the body to let the cool breeze get closer to their hot 107 degree F (42 degrees C) body. This cooling posture is slightly different than when they holds their wings out from the body to dry off after a rain storm or a swim or bath. Getting wet with salt water causes their feathers to stick together and they usually follow a salt water dip with a fresh water bath.

How much food does a Bald Eagle eat in one day?
They eat approximately ½ to 1 ½ pounds (200 to 700 grams) daily. They are also adapted to going without any food for a week or more during storms or periods of low food availability.

Do the mother and father Bald Eagle stay together for life?
Yes, Bald Eagles mate for life. However, if one dies or is lost, the one remaining will take a new mate.

Where does a Bald Eagle build its nest and how big is it?
Bald Eagles build their nests near water and primarily in very tall trees, usually 50–150 feet (15–45 metres) tall. If they live where there are no tall trees, such as Alaska or Florida, they may build the nest on a cliff or a shorter tree. Their nests are usually about 4 to 8 feet (1.5 metres) across but have been known to be 12 feet (3.5 metres) across. The nest can weigh up to 1000 pounds (450 kilograms) and is so strong that a human would be able to stand in it without breaking the nest. Most coastal British Columbia nests in coniferous trees, which are ravaged by winter storms and subjected to a lot of decaying moisture, usually weigh about 100 to 500 pounds. In other words the annual nest additions equal the years wear.

How many eggs does a Bald Eagle lay?
The female Bald Eagle lays 1 to 3 eggs, but usually 2 eggs. The eggs are off-white in colour and about 3 inches (7.6 cm) long.

Why do Bald Eagles have such big, strong nests when they have only two small eggs?
Bald Eagles are about 3 feet (90 centimeters) from their head to their tail and before the nestlings leave the nest, they become larger than they will be as adults and need a lot of room for their 6 to 7 foot (1.8 metre) wingspan. The nests need to be very sturdy because the eaglets jump up and down, flapping their wings when they’re learning to fly.

When do the eggs hatch?
The parents take turns sitting on the eggs for about 35 to 36 days. The hatchlings weigh about 3 ounces (85 grams) and have white or light grey down feathers all over. By 10 days of age the chicks have their second plumage of darker grey down that offers much more warmth. The eaglet’s dark body feathers start to come in when they are four or five weeks old. The first egg laid will be the first egg to hatch and therefore the oldest eaglet may be a little larger and better able to fight for food than the younger ones.

How long do the nestlings stay in the nest? When do they learn to fly?

Eaglets stay in the nest and are fed by their parents for about 12 weeks. They practice flapping their wings and hopping in the nest, often jumping up to other branches, called branching, close to their nest. After days or weeks of jumping, flapping and branching, they fly off the nest. This first flight is called “fledging.”

How long is it before the chicks look like their parents?

It takes a juvenile (who is between 1 and 4 yrs old) eagle about 4–6 years before they get all their adult feathers and coloring. Until then, they have brown bodies including their head and tail, with some white feathers mixed in and they have brown eyes and beak.

Why do the chicks sometimes have a bulge on their chest?

That bulge is where the bird’s crop is. The crop is a little sack that is attached to their esophagus, the tube that goes from their mouth to their stomach. An eagle can swallow large chunks of food that are held in the crop until there is room in the stomach for the acids to digest it. You might see an eaglet or adult moving its neck in a funny way to help the food move from the crop to the stomach. Eagles need to eat fast before another eagles takes control of the carcass and this is a place to temporarily store their food.

How can you tell the difference between the mother and father eagle?

Male and female eagles have the same coloring but are different in size. Females are about 1/3 larger than males and the female’s call is generally lower pitched than the male’s call, which is almost a scream. Another way to tell them apart is to measure the height of their bill. The female’s bill is always deeper than the male’s and usually has a larger hook than the male’s.
Females weigh an average of 9 -12 pounds. Males weigh an average of 6 - 9 pounds.

Can Bald Eagles swim?
They are very good swimmers. Sometimes an eagle will catch a fish in its talons that is too heavy for them to carry and they will swim over a mile to shore dragging the fish so they can eat it.

What are a Bald Eagle’s enemies?
Sometimes a raccoon or other large bird, like an owl, may attack a nestling, but human beings are the eagle’s main enemy. Foxes has been seen to predate ground nesting eaglets and bears have been seen a couple of times climbing to nests. Humans cause most eagle deaths. The use of pesticide chemicals poisons the eagles food and they die scavenging the poisoned prey. Rodenticides often kill rats and mice and these poisoned rodents are then contaminated by eating the dead rodents. Automobiles sometimes strike eagles that are feeding on a road kill. By far the biggest killer of eagles is electrocution. Eagles land on power poles and if their wings or talons touch the two wires they cause a short and they get electrocuted. However, the biggest threat to eagles is the loss of suitable habitat, particularly the loss of suitable nest trees.

Are there very many Bald Eagles?
Bald Eagles were put on the official US Endangered Species list in 1976 and in 1995 they were upgraded to Threatened, because their numbers have been increasing. There are now an estimated 70,000 Bald Eagles in the world, with about 35,000 living in Alaska and 25,000 living in British Columbia. In 2011 the US removed the bald eagle from the Threatened and Endangered species list. About 50 -60 percent of the eagle population consists of breeding adults and the other 40 - 50 percent of juveniles.



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By: MaryF (offline) on Wednesday, January 20 2010 @ 04:09 PM EST  

Here is a great video that was posted by Elaine over on the Daily Beat. I thought everybody else might enjoy seeing

:whew:This took me a while but I finally did it! Little steps!!


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By: Anonymous: CAL04 () on Friday, January 22 2010 @ 12:44 AM EST  
Anonymous: CAL04

Enjoyed the video, Mary,
Always something new to learn about eagles and raptors. Thank you. Smile

By: IrishEyes (offline) on Tuesday, March 02 2010 @ 01:55 AM EST  

I had a question but i received the answer ~~Thank you !

Bev .

Helpful Hints Be respectful ..Bev !


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By: Anonymous: plahti () on Friday, March 05 2010 @ 09:36 AM EST  
Anonymous: plahti

Has there ever been twins? I have seen a chicken egg with 2 yolks. Is it possible with eagles?


By: JudyB (offline) on Friday, March 05 2010 @ 11:04 AM EST  

I've seen an answer to that recently, plahti, but cannot remember where (so many nests!).

The response was more technical than this - but the short answer is no. I think it might be possible for an eagle to lay a double-yolked egg, but there wouldn't be room for both chicks to develop so it wouldn't survive to hatch. If I can remember where I saw the information, I'll provide a reference.

There have been nests where two of the eggs hatched the same day - but they were laid at least a day or two apart. (It's my impression that most eagles lay eggs at least two days apart, and three days seems to be more common. I should look back through my records to see what the shortest time between eggs was, in the relatively brief period when I've been trying to track things like that.)


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By: Pat B (offline) on Friday, March 19 2010 @ 07:25 PM EDT  
Pat B

Since the recent addition of web cams for eagles we never heard of - several wondered just howmany eagles there are??

Rather than pick bit's out of this article - and not do justice to it -I thought I would bring you the link!!
Eagles of the World

There is a huge list of eagles at the bottom!!


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