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 Forum Index > H.W.F. Goes Wild in the Schools > Classroom Resource Center
 Facts About Bald Eagles
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By: jkr (offline) on Monday, January 11 2010 @ 03:14 PM EST (Read 156128 times)  

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 yellow eyes. They can weigh up to 14 pounds (6.5 kg) and their wings can stretch to over 7 feet (2 metres) 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 piebalde 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, but mainly along the northwestern coast of the USA and Canada.

How long do Bald Eagles live?
Bald Eagles kept in captivity may 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 favourite food is fish, but they will eat small mammals like rabbits and water birds like ducks or gulls.

How well can a Bald Eagle see?
Bald Eagles see about 7 times better than people can. One thousand feet (300 metres) up in the air, a Bald Eagle can spot its prey over 3 square miles (8 square km). They are able to do this because they can see both forward and sideways at the same time. They have binocular vision where both eyes focus forward on a single item and this permits 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.

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.

How much food does a Bald Eagle eat in one day?
They eat approximately ½ to 1 ½ pounds (200 to 700 grams) daily.

Do the mother and father Bald Eagle stay together for life?
Yes, Bald Eagles mate for life, as do most birds. 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 5 feet (1.5 metres) across but have been known to be 10 feet (3 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.

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 as large as their parents and need a lot of room for their 6 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 days. The hatchlings weigh about 3 ounces (85 grams) and have grey down feathers all over. The eaglet’s 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 12 to 14 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 and bluish feet.

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. 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 and this is a place to 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.

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 to shore with it 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. Humans use chemicals and these poison the eagles food supply. Automobiles sometimes strike eagles that are feeding on a road kill. Eagles sometimes fly into high power lines and break their wings. The biggest threat to eagles is a poisoned food supply and then the loss of suitable nest trees.

Are there very many Bald Eagles?
Bald Eagles were put on the official US Endangered Species list about 30 years ago (1976) and about 10 years ago (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 20,000 living in British Columbia. This year (2007) the US will decide if they will remove the Bald Eagle from the federal list of Threatened and Endangered species.



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By: Anonymous: sunbum12 () on Sunday, April 11 2010 @ 10:15 PM EDT  
Anonymous: sunbum12

May I ask, how does a female bald eagle select a mate?


By: jkr (offline) on Monday, April 12 2010 @ 11:09 AM EDT  

Quote by: sunbum12

May I ask, how does a female bald eagle select a mate?


That might be a good question for David Hancock. Grin



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By: Anonymous: monique06 () on Monday, November 21 2011 @ 10:26 AM EST  
Anonymous: monique06

Quote by: sunbum12

May I ask, how does a female bald eagle select a mate?


the female eagle flies around with a pebble in her beak. When a male eagle takes noticed it he follows the female under, the female will drop the pebble in her mouth, and when the male catches it....mating will begin. Smile

By: jwnix (offline) on Monday, November 21 2011 @ 11:10 AM EST  

Monique, I've never read that myth re; ability of male to catch stones....interesting!!!
I looked for a more science based answer and came up with this one..... found here http://eaglenest.blogs.wm.edu/2011/02/2 ... ld-eagles/

No easy answer for these often asked questions. How do bald eagles choose their mate? Does the female or male make the decision? Is there competition? How can they recognize each other from such long distances away? While the subject of mate selection has been well studied in many species, I have not found any published studies of mate selection by the bald eagle, and my colleagues at the Center for Conservation Biology have the same answer that I have – I don’t know!

However, there are several clues even if we don’t know for certain. Charles Darwin was the first to suggest in his 1859 The Origin of Species that sexual dichromatism – one sex brightly colored the other drab – played a role in choosing a mate. For the most part his theories were rejected for many years. I expect that most viewers of the WVEC web cam at Norfolk Botanical Garden have seen nature programs on television of brightly colored males dancing or displaying in front of one or more drably colored females as part of the mate selection process. Both the male and female bald eagle look alike so is color a factor? Probably not. Perhaps size is a factor since the male is always smaller. How about display? Bald eagles are well known for their “courtship flights” sometimes called sky-dancing. Locking talons and tumbling down together is often observed. In December 1992 the then only known pair of bald eagles in Virginia Beach locked talons and fell into Atlantic Ave where they were covered with a blanket by a motorist until animal control officers arrived to get them unlocked. Neither eagle was injured and flew off. Is there competition? A few years later three bald eagles fell out of the sky locked together into a mans yard in Thoroughgood in Virginia Beach as he worked in his yard. One eagle flew off immediately, one flew off after resting a few minutes, and the other waited until I got there with a reporter from the newspaper. Was it two males after the same lady? Two ladies after the same guy? Don’t know, but maybe. Who makes the selection? Most studies have determined that it is the female, however that is not always the case. One study of barn owls in Europe determined that the male made the selection based on very minor color differences in breast feathers on the female. Birds are highly visually sensitive, but sounds can also be a factor in identification. I have been in hugh colonies of several species of penguins and they locate each other by the sounds they make. Visitors at Norfolk Botanical Garden have noticed that the pitch of the voice of the male and female is different. Is this another factor in mate secection? Possible!

So where does that leave us as far as an answer? Perhaps ornithologist and professor of biology Geoffrey E. Hill states it best in his book Bird Coloration – A simple visual signal that says “I am a male” or “I am a female” says it all.

Black Bear Conservation Coalition www.bbcc.org


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By: golden1 (offline) on Saturday, November 10 2012 @ 01:45 PM EST  

I found this site that has lots of tips for teachers and some great photos with questions for the kids. Choose the Kids link at the left side of main menu page.


2009 ~ Donna ~ Colorado


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