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Bald Eagle
In Skagit Valley, USA
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Accipitriformes
Family: Accipitridae
Genus: Haliaeetus
Species: H. leucocephalus
Binomial name
Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Linnaeus, 1766
Subspecies
  • H. l. leucocephalus Linnaeus, 1766
    Southern Bald Eagle* H. l. washingtoniensis Audubon, 1827
    Northern Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle range

     Breeding resident      Breeding summer visitor,      Winter visitor      On migration only

Star: accidental records
Synonyms

Falco leucocephalus Linnaeus, 1766

The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is a bird of prey found in North America. It is the national bird and symbol of the United States of America. This sea eagle has two known sub-species and forms a species pair with the White-tailed Eagle. Its range includes most of Canada and Alaska, all of the contiguous United States, and northern Mexico. It is found near large bodies of open water with an abundant food supply and old-growth trees for nesting.

The Bald Eagle is a large bird, with a body length of 70–102 centimeters (28–40 in), a wingspan of up to 2.44 m (96 in), and a mass of 2.5–7 kilograms (5.5–15 lb); females are about 25 percent larger than males.[2][3] The adult Bald Eagle has a brown body with a white head and tail, bright yellow irises, and golden taloned feet and hooked beak; juveniles are completely brown except for the yellow feet. Males and females are identical in plumage coloration. Its diet consists mainly of fish, but it is an opportunistic feeder. It hunts fish by swooping down and snatching the fish out of the water with its talons. It is sexually mature at four years or five years of age. In the wild, Bald Eagles can live up to thirty years, and often survive longer in captivity.[4] The Bald Eagle builds the largest nest of any North American bird, up to 4 meters (13 ft) deep, 2.5 meters (8.2 ft) wide, and one metric ton (1.1 tons) in weight.[2]

The species was on the brink of extinction in the continental United States (while flourishing in much of Alaska and Canada) late in the 20th century, but now has a stable population and has been officially removed from the U.S. federal government's list of endangered species. The Bald Eagle was officially reclassified from "Endangered" to "Threatened" on July 12, 1995 by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. On July 6, 1999, a proposal was initiated "To Remove the Bald Eagle in the Lower 48 States From the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife." It was de-listed on June 28, 2007.

Contents

Description

The plumage of an adult Bald Eagle is evenly brown with a white head and tail. The tail is moderately long and slightly wedge-shaped. Males and females are identical in plumage coloration, but sexual dimorphism is evident in the species in that females are 25 percent larger than males.[2] The beak, feet, and irises are bright yellow. The legs are feather-free, and the toes are short and powerful with large talons. The highly developed talon of the hind toe is used to pierce the vital areas of prey while it is held immobile by the front toes.[5] The beak is large and hooked, with a yellow cere.[6]

The plumage of the immature is brown, speckled with white until the fifth (rarely fourth, very rarely third) year, when it reaches sexual maturity.[2][5] Immature Bald Eagles are distinguishable from the Golden Eagle in that the former has a more protruding head with a larger beak, straighter edged wings which are held flat (not slightly raised) and with a stiffer wing beat, and feathers which do not completely cover the legs.[7]

Juvenile on sand.

Body length ranges from 70–102 centimeters (28–40 in). Adult females have a wingspan of up to 2.44 m (96 in), while adult males may be as small as 1.68 m (66 in).[2] Adult females weigh approximately 5.8 kilograms (13 lb), males weigh 4.1 kilograms (9.0 lb).[8] The size of the bird varies by location; the smallest specimens are those from Florida, where an adult male may barely exceed 2.3 kilograms (5.1 lb) and a wingspan of 1.8 m (5.9 ft). The largest are Alaskan birds, where large females may exceed 7.5 kilograms (17 lb) and have a wingspan of over 2.4 m (7.9 ft).[6]

The call consists of weak chirping whistles, harsher and more shrill from young birds than adults.[7]

The average lifespan of Bald Eagles in the wild is around 20 years, with the oldest living to be about 30. In captivity, they often live somewhat longer. In one instance, a captive individual in New York lived for nearly 50 years. As with size, the average lifespan of an eagle population appears to be influenced by its location.[4]

Taxonomy

Subspecies H. l. washingtoniensis in flight, Alaska.

This sea eagle gets both its common and scientific names from the distinctive appearance of the adult's head. Bald in the English name is derived from the word piebald, and refers to the white head and tail feathers and their contrast with the darker body.[9] The scientific name is derived from Haliaeetus, New Latin for "sea eagle" (from the Ancient Greek haliaetos), and leucocephalus, Latinized Ancient Greek for "white head," from λευκος leukos ("white") and κεφαλη kephale ("head").[10][11]

The Bald Eagle was one of the many species originally described by Linnaeus in his 18th century work Systema Naturae, under the name Falco leucocephalus.[12]

There are two recognized subspecies of Bald Eagle:[2][13]

  • H. l. leucocephalus (Linnaeus, 1766) is the nominate subspecies. It is separated from H. l. alascanus at approximately latitude 38° N, or roughly the latitude of San Francisco.[14] It is found in the southern United States and Baja California.[15]
  • H. l. washingtoniensis (Audubon, 1827), synonym H. l. alascanus Townsend, 1897, the northern subspecies, is larger than southern nominate leucocephalus. It is found in the northern United States, Canada and Alaska.[2][15] This subspecies reaches further south than latitude 38° N on the Atlantic Coast, where they occur in the Cape Hatteras area.[14]

The Bald Eagle forms a species pair with the Eurasian White-tailed Eagle. This species pair consists of a white-headed and a tan-headed species of roughly equal size; the White-tailed Eagle also has overall somewhat paler brown body plumage. The pair diverged from other Sea Eagles at the beginning of the Early Miocene (c. 10 Ma BP) at the latest, but possibly as early as the Early/Middle Oligocene, 28 Ma BP, if the most ancient fossil record is correctly assigned to this genus.[16] The two species probably diverged in the North Pacific, as the White-tailed Eagle spread westwards into Eurasia and the Bald Eagle spread eastwards into North America.[17]

Habitat and range

The Bald Eagle prefers habitats near seacoasts, rivers, large lakes, oceans, and other large bodies of open water with an abundance of fish. Studies have shown a preference for bodies of water with a circumference greater than 11 km (7 mi), and lakes with an area greater than 10 square kilometers (4 sq mi) are optimal for breeding bald eagles.[18]

The Bald Eagle requires old-growth and mature stands of coniferous or hardwood trees for perching, roosting, and nesting. Selected trees must have good visibility, an open structure, and proximity to prey, but the height or species of tree is not as important as an abundance of comparatively large trees surrounding the body of water. Forests used for nesting should have a canopy cover of no more than 60 percent, and no less than 20 percent, and be in close proximity to water.[18]

The Bald Eagle is extremely sensitive to human activity, and is found most commonly in areas free of human disturbance. It chooses sites more than 1.2 km (0.75 mi) from low-density human disturbance and more than 1.8 km (1.1 mi) from medium- to high-density human disturbance.[18] Occasionally Bald Eagles will venture into large estuaries or secluded groves within major cities, such as Hardtack Island on the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon.[19] Despite this sensitivity, a family of bald eagles recently moved to Harlem, NY.[20]

The Bald Eagle's natural range covers most of North America, including most of Canada, all of the continental United States, and northern Mexico. It is the only sea eagle endemic to North America. Occupying varied habitats from the bayous of Louisiana to the Sonoran Desert and the eastern deciduous forests of Quebec and New England, northern birds are migratory, while southern birds are resident, remaining on their breeding territory all year. At minimum population, in the 1950s, it was largely restricted to Alaska, the Aleutian Islands, northern and eastern Canada, and Florida.[21]

It has occurred as a vagrant twice in Ireland; a juvenile was shot illegally in Fermanagh on January 11, 1973 (misidentified at first as a White-tailed Eagle), and an exhausted juvenile was captured in Kerry on November 15, 1987.[22] Bald Eagles will also congregate in certain locations in winter. From November until February, one to two thousand birds winter in Squamish, British Columbia, about halfway between Vancouver and Whistler. The birds primarily gather along the Squamish and Cheakamus Rivers, attracted by the salmon spawning in the area.[23]

Behavior

Eating whale carrion.

The Bald Eagle is a powerful flier, and soars on thermal convection currents. It reaches speeds of 56–70 kilometers per hour (35–43 mph) when gliding and flapping, and about 48 kilometers per hour (30 mph) while carrying fish.[24] Its dive speed is between 120–160 kilometers per hour (75–99 mph), though it seldom dives vertically.[25] It is partially migratory, depending on location. If its territory has access to open water, it remains there year-round, but if the body of water freezes during the winter, making it impossible to obtain food, it migrates to the south or to the coast. The Bald Eagle selects migration routes which take advantage of thermals, updrafts, and food resources. During migration, it may ascend in a thermal and then glide down, or may ascend in updrafts created by the wind against a cliff or other terrain. Migration generally takes place during the daytime, when thermals are produced by the sun.[5]

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Diet

The Bald Eagle's diet is opportunistic and varied, but most feed mainly on fish. In the Pacific Northwest, spawning trout and salmon provide most of the Bald Eagles' diet.[26]

Locally, eagles may rely largely on carrion, especially in winter, and they will scavenge carcasses up to the size of whales, though it seems that carcasses of ungulates and large fish are preferred. They also may sometimes feed on subsistence scavenged or stolen from campsites and picnics, as well as garbage dumps. Mammalian prey includes rabbits, hares, raccoons, muskrats, beavers, and deer fawns. Preferred avian prey includes grebes, alcids, ducks, gulls, coots, egrets, and geese. Most live prey are quite a bit smaller than the eagle, but predatory attacks on large birds such as the Great Blue Heron and even swans have been recorded. Reptiles, amphibians and crustaceans (especially crabs) are preyed on when available.

With a freshly caught fish.

To hunt fish, easily their most important live prey, the eagle swoops down over the water and snatches the fish out of the water with its talons. They eat by holding the fish in one claw and tearing the flesh with the other. Eagles have structures on their toes called spiricules that allow them to grasp fish. Osprey also have this adaptation.[24] Bald Eagles have powerful talons and have been recorded flying with a 15-pound Mule Deer fawn.[27] Sometimes, if the fish is too heavy to lift, the eagle will be dragged into the water. It may swim to safety, but some eagles drown or succumb to hypothermia. When competing for food, eagles will usually dominate other fish-eaters and scavengers, aggressively displacing mammals such as coyotes and foxes, and birds such as corvids, gulls, vultures and other raptors. Bald Eagles may be displaced by themselves or by Golden Eagles. Neither species is known to be dominant, and the outcome depends on the individual animal. Occasionally, Bald Eagles will steal fish and other prey away from smaller raptors, such as Ospreys, a practice known as kleptoparasitism.[28] Healthy adult Bald Eagles are not preyed on in the wild and are thus considered apex predators.[29] In one case, an adult eagle scooping out a Peregrine Falcon nest as prey sustained a concussion from a swooping parent Peregrine and died days later from it.[30]

Reproduction

Two chicks (eaglets).
Chick with parent.
A nesting pair.

Bald Eagles are sexually mature at four or five years of age. When they are old enough to breed, they often return to the area where they were born. It is thought that Bald Eagles mate for life. However, if one member of a pair dies or disappears, the other will choose a new mate. A pair which has repeatedly failed in breeding attempts may split and look for new mates.[31] Bald Eagle courtship involves elaborate calls and flight displays. The flight includes swoops, chases, and cartwheels, in which they fly high, lock talons, and free fall, separating just before hitting the ground.[32] The nest is the largest of any bird in North America; it is used repeatedly over many years and with new material added each year may eventually be as large as 4 meters (13 ft) deep, 2.5 meters (8.2 ft) across and weigh 1 metric ton (1.1 short tons);[2] one nest in Florida was found to be 6.1 meters (20 ft) deep, 2.9 meters (9.5 ft) across, and to weigh 3 short tons (2.7 t).[33] The nest is built out of branches, usually in large trees near water. When breeding where there are no trees, the Bald Eagle will nest on the ground. Eagles produce between one and three eggs per year, but it is rare for all three chicks to successfully fly. Both the male and female take turns incubating the eggs. The other parent will hunt for food or look for nesting material. The eggs average about 73 millimeters (2.9 in) long and have a breadth of 55 millimeters (2.2 in).[24]

Newly fledged juvenile.

Relationship with humans

Population decline and recovery

Once a common sight in much of the continent, the Bald Eagle was severely affected in the mid-20th century by a variety of factors, among them the thinning of egg shells attributed to use of the pesticide DDT.[34] Bald Eagles, like many birds of prey, were especially affected by DDT due to biomagnification. DDT itself was not lethal to the adult bird, but it interfered with the bird's calcium metabolism, making the bird either sterile or unable to lay healthy eggs. Female eagles laid eggs that were too brittle to withstand the weight of a brooding adult, making it nearly impossible for the eggs to hatch.[21] It is estimated that in the early 1700s, the bald eagle population was 300,000–500,000,[35] but by the 1950s there were only 412 nesting pairs in the 48 contiguous states of the US. Other factors in Bald Eagle population reductions were a widespread loss of suitable habitat, as well as illegal shooting, which was described as "the leading cause of direct mortality in both adult and immature bald eagles," according to a 1978 report in the Endangered Species Technical Bulletin. In 1984, the National Wildlife Federation listed hunting, power-line electrocution, and collisions in flight as the leading causes of eagle deaths. Bald Eagle populations have also been negatively affected by oil, lead, and mercury pollution, and by human and predator intrusion.[36]

First-year.

The species was first protected in the U.S. and Canada by the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty, later extended to all of North America. The 1940 Bald Eagle Protection Act in the U.S., which protected the Bald Eagle and the Golden Eagle, prohibited commercial trapping and killing of the birds. The Bald Eagle was declared an endangered species in the U.S. in 1967, and amendments to the 1940 act between 1962 and 1972 further restricted commercial uses and increased penalties for violators. Also in 1972, DDT was banned in the United States.[37] DDT was completely banned in Canada in 1989, though its use had been highly restricted since the late 1970s.[38]

With regulations in place and DDT banned, the eagle population rebounded. The Bald Eagle can be found in growing concentrations throughout the United States and Canada, particularly near large bodies of water. In the early 1980s, the estimated total population was 100,000 individuals, with 110,000–115,000 by 1992;[2] the U.S. state with the largest resident population is Alaska, with about 40,000–50,000, with the next highest population the Canadian province of British Columbia with 20,000–30,000 in 1992.[2]

It was officially removed from the U.S. federal government's list of endangered species on July 12, 1995, by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, when it was reclassified from "Endangered" to "Threatened." On July 6, 1999, a proposal was initiated "To Remove the Bald Eagle in the Lower 48 States From the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife." It was de-listed on June 28, 2007.[39] It has also been assigned a risk level of Least Concern category on the IUCN Red List.[40]

In captivity

Head detail.

Permits are required to keep Bald Eagles in captivity in the United States. Permits are primarily issued to public educational institutions, and the eagles which they show are permanently injured individuals which cannot be released to the wild. The facilities where eagles are kept must be equipped with adequate caging and facilities, as well as workers experienced in the handling and care of eagles. Bald Eagles cannot legally be kept for falconry in the United States. As a rule, the Bald Eagle is a poor choice for public shows, being timid, prone to becoming highly stressed, and unpredictable in nature. Native American Tribes can obtain a "Native American Religious Use" permit to keep non-releasable eagles as well. They use their naturally molted feathers for religious and cultural ceremonies. The Bald Eagle can be long-lived in captivity if well cared for, but does not breed well even under the best conditions.[41] In Canada, a license is required to keep Bald Eagles for falconry.[42]

The national bird of the United States

The Bald Eagle is the national bird of the United States of America. It appears on most of its official seals, including the Seal of the President of the United States.[43] The Continental Congress adopted the current design for the Great Seal of the United States including a Bald Eagle grasping thirteen arrows and a thirteen-leaf olive branch with its talons on June 20, 1782.[44][45] The founders of the United States were fond of comparing their new republic with the Roman Republic, in which eagle imagery was prominent.

The Bald Eagle can be found on both national seals and on the back of several coins (including the quarter dollar coin until 1999), with its head oriented towards the olive branch. Between 1916 and 1945, the Presidential Flag showed an eagle facing to its left (the viewer's right), which gave rise to the urban legend that the seal is changed to have the eagle face towards the olive branch in peace, and towards the arrows in wartime.[46]

Contrary to popular legend, there is no evidence that Benjamin Franklin ever supported the Wild Turkey as a symbol of the United States over the Bald Eagle. The origin of this claim is a letter Franklin wrote to his daughter in 1784 from Paris. However, this letter was a criticism of the Society of the Cincinnati, and never mentions the choice of the Bald Eagle for the Great Seal of the United States. Franklin opposed the creation of the Society because he viewed it, with its hereditary membership, as a noble order which was unwelcome in the newly independent Republic. The reference to the two birds is a satirical comparison between the Society of the Cincinnati and Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, for whom the Society was named. Franklin viewed the creation of the Society as being contrary to the ideals of Cincinnatus.[47]

Role in Native American culture

An adult eagle landing on its nest.

The Bald Eagle is a sacred bird in some North American cultures, and its feathers, like those of the Golden Eagle, are central to many religious and spiritual customs among Native Americans. Eagles are considered spiritual messengers between gods and humans by some cultures.[48] Many pow wow dancers use the eagle claw as part of their regalia as well. Eagle feathers are often used in traditional ceremonies, particularly in the construction of regalia worn and as a part of fans, bustles and head dresses. The Lakota, for instance, give an eagle feather as a symbol of honor to person who achieves a task. In modern times, it may be given on an event such as a graduation from college.[49] The Pawnee considered eagles as symbols of fertility because their nests are built high off the ground and because they fiercely protect their young. The Kwakwaka'wakw scattered eagle down to welcome important guests.[50] The Choctaw explained that the Bald Eagle, who has direct contact with the upper world of the sun, is a symbol of peace.[51]

During the Sun Dance, which is practiced by many Plains Indian tribes, the eagle is represented in several ways. The eagle nest is represented by the fork of the lodge where the dance is held. A whistle made from the wing bone of an eagle is used during the course of the dance. Also during the dance, a medicine man may direct his fan, which is made of eagle feathers, to people who seek to be healed. The medicine man touches the fan to the center pole and then to the patient, in order to transmit power from the pole to the patient. The fan is then held up toward the sky, so that the eagle may carry the prayers for the sick to the Creator.[52]

Current eagle feather law stipulates that only individuals of certifiable Native American ancestry enrolled in a federally recognized tribe are legally authorized to obtain Bald or Golden Eagle feathers for religious or spiritual use. The constitutionality of these laws has been questioned by Native American groups on the basis that it violates the First Amendment by affecting ability to practice their religion freely.[53][54]

See also

References

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  20. ^ [1]
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  37. ^ EPA press release (1972-12-31). "DDT Ban Takes Effect". United States Environmental Protection Agency. http://www.epa.gov/history/topics/ddt/01.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-22. 
  38. ^ Barrera, Jorge (2005-07-04). "Agent Orange has left deadly legacy Fight continues to ban pesticides and herbicides across Canada". http://www.nben.ca/environews/media/mediaarchives/05/july/legacy.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-22. 
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  42. ^ Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997. Ministry of Attorney General. http://www.search.e-laws.gov.on.ca/en/isysquery/ca733c6b-d473-44df-952a-203eb9829bcd/4/frame/?search=browseStatutes&context=. Retrieved 2007-11-07. 
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  44. ^ "Original Design of the Great Seal of the United States (1782)". National Archives. http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=5. Retrieved 2007-08-19. 
  45. ^ The official description was in text only; no diagram was included. Text of the Act.
  46. ^ Mikkelson, Barbara & Mikkelson, David P. "A Turn of the Head". snopes.com. http://www.snopes.com/history/american/turnhead.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-19. 
  47. ^ http://americanheraldry.org/pages/index.php?n=MMM.Turkey
  48. ^ Julie Collier. "The Sacred Messengers". Mashantucket Pequot Museum. http://www.pequotmuseum.org/Home/CrossPaths/CrossPathsSpring2003/TheSacredMessengers.htm. Retrieved 2007-05-20. 
  49. ^ Melmer, David (2007-06-11). "Bald eagles may come off threatened list". Indian Country Today. http://www.indiancountry.com/content.cfm?id=1096415182. Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  50. ^ Brown, Steven C.; Averill, Lloyd J.. "Sun Dogs and Eagle Down". University of Washington Press. http://www.washington.edu/uwpress/search/books/BROSUN.html. Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  51. ^ O'Brien, Greg (2005). "Power Derived from the Outside World". Choctaws in a Revolutionary Age, 1750-1830. University of Nebraska Press. p. 58. ISBN 0803286228. 
  52. ^ Lawrence, Elizabeth Atwood. "The Symbolic Role of Animals in the Plains Indian Sun Dance". University of Washington Press. http://www.psyeta.org/sa/sa1.1/lawrence.html. Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  53. ^ DeMeo, Antonia M. (1995). "Access to Eagles and Eagle Parts: Environmental Protection v. Native American Free Exercise of Religion". Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly 22 (3): 771–813. http://www.animallaw.info/articles/ar22hstclq771.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-22. 
  54. ^ Boradiansky, Tina S. (1990). "Conflicting Values: The Religious Killing of Federally Protected Wildlife". University of New Mexico School of Law. http://www.animallaw.info/articles/arus30nrj709.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-23. 

Further reading

  • Beans, Bruce E. (1996). Eagle's Plume: The Struggle to Preserve the Life and Haunts of America's Bald Eagle. New York, NY: Scribner. ISBN 0684806967. OCLC 35029744. 
  • Gerrard, Jonathan M.; Bortolotti, Gary R. (1988). The Bald Eagle: Haunts and Habits of a Wilderness Monarch. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. ISBN 0874744512. OCLC 16801779. 
  • Isaacson, Philip M. (1975). The American Eagle (1st ed.). Boston, MA: New York Graphic Society. ISBN 0821206125. OCLC 1366058. 
  • Knight, Richard L.; Gutzwiller, Kevin J. (1995). Wildlife and Recreationists: Coexistence through Management and Research. Washington, DC: Island Press. ISBN 1559632577. OCLC 30893485. 
  • Laycock, George (1973). Autumn of the Eagle. New York. NY: Scribner. ISBN 0684134136. OCLC 754345. 
  • Petersen, Shannon (2002). Acting for Endangered Species: The Statutory Ark. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. ISBN 070061172X. OCLC 48477567. 
  • Spencer, Donald A. (1976). Wintering of the Migrant Bald Eagle in the Lower 48 States. Washington, DC: National Agricultural Chemicals Association. OCLC 2985418. 
  • Stalmaster, Mark V. (1987). The Bald Eagle. New York, NY: Universe Books. ISBN 0876634919. OCLC 15014825. 
  • Temple, Stanley A. (1978). Endangered Birds: Management Techniques for Preserving Threatened Species. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0299075206. OCLC 3750666. 

Identification

  • Grant, Peter J. (1988) The Co. Kerry Bald Eagle Twitching 1(12): 379-80 - describes plumage differences between Bald Eagle and White-tailed Eagle in juveniles

External links

Video links


Simple English

Bald Eagle
File:Haliaeetus leucocephalus -Skagit
In Skagit Valley, United States
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Accipitriformes
Family: Accipitridae
Genus: Haliaeetus
Species: H. leucocephalus
Binomial name
Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Linnaeus, 1766
File:Distribution H.
Bald Eagle range

     Breeding      Breeding, eagles during summer only      Eagles during winter      On migration only

Star: Single eagles spotted
Subspecies

Also see text

  • H. l. leucocephalus – Southern Bald Eagle
  • H. l. washingtoniensis – Northern Bald Eagle
Synonyms

Falco leucocephalus

The Bald Eagle (Latin name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is a bird of prey that lives in North America. It is the national bird of the United States of America. The Bald Eagle is a kind of sea eagle (it is sometimes called by this name). It can be found in most of Canada, all of the United States, and the northern part of Mexico. It lives near big areas of water where there is a lot of food to eat and old trees to nest in. It is called bald because of the white head and neck, making it look bald.

The species almost died out in the United States (while their numbers were growing in Alaska and Canada) late in the 20th century, but now has a more stable population.

Contents

Description

The Bald Eagle is a large bird. It is usually as tall as Template:Convert/– and its wingspans are 2.44 m (96 in). Female eagles are about 25 percent larger than males.[1][2] Adult females weigh 5.8 kilograms (13 lb), while males weigh 4.1 kilograms (9.0 lb).[3] The adult Bald Eagle has a brown body, and its head and tail are white. It also has golden feet with large talons, and a hooked beak. The males and the females do not have different colors on their wings.

Before Bald Eagles become adults, their wings are brown, and they are usually speckled with white dots until the fifth year.[1][4] The differences between Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles are that Bald Eagles have a larger head with a bigger beak, and their legs do not have feathers.[4][5]
File:Juvenile Bald Eagle
Young Bald Eagle on sand

The size of the bird depends on where it lives. The smallest birds are in Florida, where an adult male is only about 2.3 kilograms (5.1 lb). The largest Bald Eagles are in Alaska, where large females may be as much as 7.5 kilograms (17 lb).[6]

When Bald Eagles call, they chirp weakly and whistle. The young birds whistle more shrilly than adults.[5]

Bald Eagles in the wild usually live around 20 years, with the oldest ones living to be about 30. When they are taken captive, they live much longer.[7]

Name

File:Haliaeetus
A Bald Eagle flying, in Alaska

This sea eagle gets both its common and scientific names from its head. Bald in the English name is from the word piebald, which means, "one with a white head".[8] The scientific name is from Haliaeetus, which is Latin for "sea eagle".[9][10]

The Bald Eagle was one of the many species written in Carolus Linnaeus's 18th century book Systema Naturae.[11] Linnaeus was a Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist who made the binomial nomenclature system.

There are two main subspecies of the Bald Eagle:[1][12]

  • H. l. leucocephalus (named by Linnaeus, 1766) is one of the subspecies. It is found in the southern United States and Baja California.[13][14]
  • H. l. washingtoniensis (named by Audubon, 1827) is the northern subspecies. It is larger than the southern kind, leucocephalus. It is found in the northern United States, Canada, and Alaska.[1][13] The Bald Eagle looks a lot like the Eurasian White-tailed Eagle. These species both have white heads of the same size, although the White-tailed Eagle has a more pale feather color. The pair probably parted into two at the North Pacific.[15] The White-tailed Eagle is in Eurasia, and the Bald Eagle is in North America.[16]

Habitat

File:Bald Eagle and
Bald Eagle with a salmon

The Bald Eagle lives mostly near seas, rivers, large lakes, oceans, and other large places with open water and a lot of fish.[17]

The Bald Eagle needs old trees with hard wood to live, sleep, and make a nest on. The tree must have an opening, and be safe from prey. However, the height or kind of tree is not as important as having a lake or sea close to the nest.[17]

The Bald Eagle does not like to be near humans, and so they are found mostly in places free of humans. Sometimes, Bald Eagles will go to large places with trees that are inside big cities, such as in Oregon.[18] Even though they are very sensitive to humans, a family of Bald Eagles recently moved into Harlem, New York.[19]

The Bald Eagle's natural home is in most of North America, including most of Canada, all of the United States, and northern Mexico.[20]

Behavior

The Bald Eagle is very fast when it flies. It reaches the speeds of 56–70 kilometers per hour (35–43 mph) when gliding and flapping. However, when it is carrying fish, it flies about 48 kilometers each hour.[21] Its dive speed is 120–160 kilometers per hour (75–99 mph), though it does not dive a lot.[22] It usually migrates, depending on the place that it is living in. If its territory has water near by, it will remain there all year, but if the water freezes in the winter, it must migrate to the south or to the coast to find something to eat.

Diet

The Bald Eagle eats mostly fish. In the Pacific Northwest, spawning trout and salmon are the main food of the Bald Eagle.[23]

Sometimes, eagles may eat a lot of carrion, especially in winter. They will also scavenge dead bodies up to the size of whales. However, eagles eat more large dead fish than whales. They also sometimes eat the leftover food from campsites or garbage dumps. The mammals they eat include rabbits, hares, raccoons, muskrats, beavers, and deer fawns. Some of the birds they eat include grebes, ducks, gulls, and geese. Reptiles, amphibians and crustaceans (especially crabs) are also eaten.

To hunt fish the eagle swoops down over the water and snatches the fish out of the water with its talons.[21] They eat by holding the fish in one claw and tearing the flesh with the other. Eagles have special things on their toes called spiricules that help them hold the fish more easily.[21] Bald Eagles have powerful talons. They have been recorded flying with a 7kg fawn.[24] Sometimes, when the fish is too heavy, the eagle will be dragged into the water with it. Sometimes, eagles swim back to the shore and live, but sometimes they may drown or die because of hypothermia (a condition when one’s body gets so cold the body temperature drops below normal). Other times, Bald Eagles will steal fish and other kinds of food away from other animals.[25] Healthy adult Bald Eagles are not eaten anywhere in the wild. This makes them thought as one of the top animals of the food chain.[26]

Reproduction

File:Haliaeetus
Two chicks (eaglets)

Bald Eagles become adults when they are four or five years old. When they are old enough to mate, they usually come back to the place where they were born. It is thought that Bald Eagles mate for life. However, if one of the pair dies or disappears, the other will choose a new mate. A pair which can not get a chick after trying for a long time, may split up and look for new mates.[27] When Bald Eagles court, they call and show their flying skills. When they do so, two mates may fly high, and then lock their talons together, and fall, parting again right before hitting the ground.[28] The nest of the Bald Eagle is larger than any other nest in North America.[1] This is because, it is used again and again, and every year more is added to the nest until it may soon become as large as 4 meters (13 ft) deep, 2.5 meters (8.2 ft) across and weigh 1 tonne.[1] One nest in Florida was found to be 6.1 meters (20 ft) deep, 2.9 meters (9.5 ft) across, and to weigh 3 short tons (2.7 t).[29] The nest is built out of branches, usually in large trees near water. If there are no trees, the Bald Eagle will make its nest on the ground. Eagles have between one and three eggs per year. Both the male and female take turns incubating the eggs. The other parent will hunt for food or look for more to add onto the nest. The eggs are about 73 millimeters (2.9 in) long.[21]

Relationship with humans

Fall and rise of population

Once easily seen on the continental United States, the Bald Eagle was close to becoming extinct because of the use of the pesticide DDT.[30] The DDT destroyed an adult bird's calcium, and it would become unable to lay more healthy eggs. Female eagles laid eggs that were too weak to withstand the weight of its parents.[20] In the early 1700s, the number of bald eagles were 300,000–500,000,[31] but by the 1950s there were only 412 nesting pairs in the United States. Other things that stopped Bald Eagles from producing well was the loss of habitat and illegal hunting of Bald Eagles. Also, oil and lead were other big reasons why Bald Eagles began to die out.[32]

The species was first protected in the United States and Canada by the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty. The 1940 Bald Eagle Protection Act in the United States also tried to stop the killing of the Bald Eagle and the Golden Eagle. The Bald Eagle was an endangered species in 1967, and the penalties for people who killed the species grew more and more. Also, in 1972, DDT was banned in the United States.[33] DDT was completely banned in Canada in 1989.[34]

Because of all this hard work, the Bald Eagle's population began to rise again. It was officially taken out from the United States list of endangered species on July 12, 1995.[35]

To keep Bald Eagles in captivity, the workers had to be experienced in caring for eagles. The Bald Eagle can live a long time in captivity if well cared for, but does not mate well, even under the best care.[36]

The national bird of the United States

The Bald Eagle is the national bird of the United States. It appears on most of its seals, including the Seal of the President of the United States.[37] The Continental Congress made the design for the Great Seal of the United States with a Bald Eagle holding thirteen arrows and an olive branch with thirteen leaves in its talons on June 20, 1782.[38][39]

File:Seal Of The President Of The United States Of
Seal of the President of the United States

The Bald Eagle can be found on both national seals and on the back of several coins (including the quarter dollar coin until 1999). Between 1916 and 1945, the Flag of the President of the United States showed an eagle facing to its left.[40]

There is a popular legend that Benjamin Franklin once supported the Wild Turkey as a symbol of the United States instead of the Bald Eagle. However, there is no evidence that this is true. The legend comes from the letter Franklin wrote to his daughter in 1784 from Paris. However, this letter was about the Society of the Cincinnati, and it did not say anything about the Bald Eagle or the Wild Turkey.[41]

In Native American culture

The Bald Eagle is a holy bird in some North American cultures. Its feathers are thought to be special. They are used very much in spiritual customs among the Native Americans. Eagles are thought as messengers between gods and humans.[42] Eagle feathers are often used in traditional things, especially in fans. The Lakota people, for instance, give an eagle feather as a symbol of honor to a person who achieves a task. In modern times, it may be given on an event such as a graduation from college.[43] The Pawnee people thought eagles as symbols of nature and fertility. This is because their nests are built high off the ground, and because they protect their young very bravely.[44] The Choctaw explained that the Bald Eagle, who can see the sun more directly, is a symbol of peace.[45]

During the Sun Dance, which is danced by a lot of Native American tribes, the eagle is included in many different ways. A whistle made from the wing bone of an eagle is used during the dance. Also during the dance, a medicine man may direct his fan, which is made of eagle feathers, to people who need healing. The fan is then held up toward the sky, so that the eagle may send all the sick prayers to the god.[46]

However, Native American tribes cannot use Bald or Golden Eagle feathers for their religious or spiritual use anymore. This is because of a law called the eagle feather law. The eagle feather law usually defends Native Americans by providing many exceptions to wildlife laws, but it presently does not yet allow Native American tribes to use them yet. This made the Native American groups angry because they insisted that it was stopping their ability to use their religion freely.[47][48]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., & Sargatal, J., eds. (1994). Handbook of the Birds of the World Vol. 2. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona ISBN 84-87334-15-6.
  2. "Bald Eagle Facts and Information". Eagles.org. http://www.eagles.org/moreabout.html. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  3. Bird, D.M. (2004). The Bird Almanac: A Guide to Essential Facts and Figures of the World's Birds. Ontario: Firefly Books. ISBN 1552979253. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Harris. "Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus". University of Michigan Museum of Geology. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Haliaeetus_leucocephalus.html. Retrieved 2007-06-21. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 David Allen Sibley (2000). The Sibley Guide to Birds. National Audubon Society ISBN 0-679-45122-6 p.127
  6. "Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus". Cornell Lab of Ornithology. http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Bald_Eagle_dtl.html. Retrieved 2007-06-21. 
  7. "Bald Eagle". National Wildlife Federation. http://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Wildlife-Library/Birds/Bald-Eagle.aspx. Retrieved 2010-11-01. 
  8. Dudley, Karen (1998). Bald Eagles. Raintree Steck-Vaughn Publishers. p. 7. ISBN 0817245715. 
  9. Joshua Dietz. "What's in a Name". Smithsonian National Zoological Park. http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/Whats_in_a_name/default.cfm?id=19. Retrieved August 19, 2007. 
  10. Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott (1980). A Greek-English Lexicon] (Abridged Edition). United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-910207-4. 
  11. Linnaeus, Carolus (1766). Systema naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio duodecima, reformata.. Holmiae. (Laurentii Salvii).. 
  12. "Haliaeetus leucocephalus". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. http://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=175420. Retrieved 2007-06-21. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 Brown, N. L.. "Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus". Endangered Species Recovery Program. http://esrpweb.csustan.edu/speciesprofiles/profile.php?sp=hale. Retrieved 2007-08-20. 
  14. "Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus". The Pacific Wildlife Foundation. http://www.pwlf.org/baldeagle.htm. Retrieved 2007-06-27. 
  15. Wink, M (1996). "A mtDNA phylogeny of sea eagles (genus Haliaeetus) based on nucleotide sequences of the cytochrome b gene" (PDF). Biochemical Systematics and Ecology 24: 783–791. doi:10.1016/S0305-1978(97)81217-3. http://www.uni-heidelberg.de/institute/fak14/ipmb/phazb/pubwink/1996/20_1996.pdf. Retrieved 2008-11-07. 
  16. "Bald Eagle Habitat". Bald-Eagles.info. http://www.bald-eagles.info/habitat.php. Retrieved 2007-06-21. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Wildlife Species: Haliaeetus leucocephalus". USDA Forest Service. http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/animals/bird/hale/all.html. Retrieved 2007-06-21. 
  18. "Ross Island FAQ". Willamette Riverkeeper website. Willamette Riverkeeper. 2009. http://www.willamette-riverkeeper.org/documents/RossIslandFactSheet.pdf. Retrieved 2009-11-07. 
  19. Carlson, Jen. "Bald Eagle Spotted Near Fairway". Gothamist. http://gothamist.com/2010/02/05/bald_eagle_1.php. Retrieved 2010-03-20. 
  20. 20.0 20.1 Bull J, Farrand, J Jr (1987). Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds: Eastern Region. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. pp. 468–9. ISBN 0-394-41405-5. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 Terres, J. K. (1980). The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds. New York, NY: Knopf. pp. 644–647. ISBN 0394466519. 
  22. "Bald Eagle Facts and Information". Eagles.org. http://www.eagles.org/moreabout.html. Retrieved 2009-03-03. 
  23. Daum, David W.. "Bald Eagle". Alaska Department of Fish & Game. http://www.adfg.state.ak.us/pubs/notebook/bird/eagles.php. Retrieved 2007-08-15. 
  24. "Birds Of Prey — Diet & Eating Habits". Seaworld.org. http://www.seaworld.org/animal-info/info-books/raptors/diet.htm. Retrieved 2009-03-03. 
  25. Jorde, D.G. (1998). "Kleptoparasitism by Bald Eagles wintering in South-Central Nebraska" (PDF). Journal of Field Ornithology 59 (2): 183–188. http://elibrary.unm.edu/sora/JFO/v059n02/p0183-p0188.pdf. Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  26. "San Diego Zoo's Animal Bytes: Bald Eagle". Sandiegozoo.org. http://www.sandiegozoo.org/animalbytes/t-bald_eagle.html. Retrieved 2009-03-03. 
  27. Stocek, R.F.. "Bald Eagle". Canadian Wildlife Service. http://www.hww.ca/hww2.asp?id=27. Retrieved 2007-08-19. 
  28. "Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)". Michigan Department of Natural Resources. http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,1607,7-153-10370_12145_12202-32581--,00.html. Retrieved 2007-04-24. 
  29. Erickson, L. (2007). Bald Eagle Journey North About Bald Eagle Nests
  30. Brown, Leslie (1976). Birds of Prey: Their biology and ecology. Hamlyn. p. 226. ISBN 0-600-31306-9. 
  31. "Bald Eagle Facts and Information". American eagle foundation. http://www.eagles.org/moreabout.html. Retrieved 2008-01-03. 
  32. Milloy, Steven (2006-07-06). "Bald Eagle". Fox News. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,202447,00.html. Retrieved 2008-01-03. 
  33. EPA press release. "DDT Ban Takes Effect". United States Environmental Protection Agency. http://www.epa.gov/history/topics/ddt/01.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-22. 
  34. Barrera, Jorge. "Agent Orange has left deadly legacy Fight continues to ban pesticides and herbicides across Canada". http://www.nben.ca/environews/media/mediaarchives/05/july/legacy.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-22. 
  35. "Bald Eagle Soars Off Endangered Species List". U.S. Department of the Interior. http://www.doi.gov/news/07_News_Releases/070628.html. Retrieved 2007-08-27. 
  36. Maestrelli, John R. (March 1975). "Breeding Bald Eagles in Captivity". The Wilson Bulletin 87 (I). http://64.233.169.104/search?q=cache:XHsa26srbBgJ:elibrary.unm.edu/sora/Wilson/v087n01/p0045-p0053.pdf+bald+eagle+%2B+breeding+in+captivity&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us. Retrieved 2007-08-19. 
  37. 4 U.S.C. § 41; The Bald Eagle on the Great Seal.
  38. "Original Design of the Great Seal of the United States (1782)". National Archives. http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=5. Retrieved 2007-08-19. 
  39. The official description was in text only; no diagram was included. Text of the Act.
  40. Mikkelson, Barbara & Mikkelson, David P. "A Turn of the Head". snopes.com. http://www.snopes.com/history/american/turnhead.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-19. 
  41. "American Heraldry Society | MMM / The Arms of the United States: Benjamin Franklin and the Turkey". Americanheraldry.org. http://americanheraldry.org/pages/index.php?n=MMM.Turkey. Retrieved 2010-03-20. 
  42. Collier, Julie. "The Sacred Messengers". Mashantucket Pequot Museum. http://www.pequotmuseum.org/Home/CrossPaths/CrossPathsSpring2003/TheSacredMessengers.htm. Retrieved 2007-05-20. 
  43. Melmer, David. "Bald eagles may come off threatened list". Indian Country Today. http://www.indiancountry.com/content.cfm?id=1096415182. Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  44. Brown, Steven C.; Averill, Lloyd J.. "Sun Dogs and Eagle Down". University of Washington Press. http://www.washington.edu/uwpress/search/books/BROSUN.html. Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  45. O'Brien, Greg (2005). "Power Derived from the Outside World". Choctaws in a Revolutionary Age, 1750-1830. University of Nebraska Press. p. 58. ISBN 0803286228. 
  46. Lawrence, Elizabeth Atwood. "The Symbolic Role of Animals in the Plains Indian Sun Dance". University of Washington Press. http://www.psyeta.org/sa/sa1.1/lawrence.html. Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  47. DeMeo, Antonia M. (1995). "Access to Eagles and Eagle Parts: Environmental Protection v. Native American Free Exercise of Religion". Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly 22 (3): 771–813. http://www.animallaw.info/articles/ar22hstclq771.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-22. 
  48. Boradiansky, Tina S. (1990). "Conflicting Values: The Religious Killing of Federally Protected Wildlife". University of New Mexico School of Law. http://www.animallaw.info/articles/arus30nrj709.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-23. 

Further reading

  • Beans, Bruce E. (1996). Eagle's Plume: The Struggle to Preserve the Life and Haunts of America's Bald Eagle. New York, NY: Scribner. ISBN 0684806967. OCLC 35029744. 
  • Gerrard, Jonathan M.; Bortolotti, Gary R. (1988). The Bald Eagle: Haunts and Habits of a Wilderness Monarch. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. ISBN 0874744512. OCLC 16801779. 
  • Isaacson, Philip M. (1975). The American Eagle (1st ed.). Boston, MA: New York Graphic Society. ISBN 0821206125. OCLC 1366058. 
  • Knight, Richard L.; Gutzwiller, Kevin J. (1995). Wildlife and Recreationists: Coexistence through Management and Research. Washington, DC: Island Press. ISBN 1559632577. OCLC 30893485. 
  • Laycock, George (1973). Autumn of the Eagle. New York. NY: Scribner. ISBN 0684134136. OCLC 754345. 
  • Petersen, Shannon (2002). Acting for Endangered Species: The Statutory Ark. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. ISBN 070061172X. OCLC 48477567. 
  • Spencer, Donald A. (1976). Wintering of the Migrant Bald Eagle in the Lower 48 States. Washington, DC: National Agricultural Chemicals Association. OCLC 2985418. 
  • Stalmaster, Mark V. (1987). The Bald Eagle. New York, NY: Universe Books. ISBN 0876634919. OCLC 15014825. 
  • Temple, Stanley A. (1978). Endangered Birds: Management Techniques for Preserving Threatened Species. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0299075206. OCLC 3750666. 

Identification

  • Grant, Peter J. (1988) The Co. Kerry Bald Eagle Twitching 1(12): 379-80 — describes plumage differences between Bald Eagle and White-tailed Eagle in juveniles

Other websites

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