Bald Eagle Facts: Bald eagle information including physical characteristics, habitat, photos, history and where best to see this beautiful bird of prey.
The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) has been a symbol of America since 1782 and an important spiritual symbol for the indigenous people of North America.
Photo at right: Close up of the face of a juvenile bald eagle.
Bald eagles develop the trademark white head and white tail only after reaching maturity at around 5 years of age.
Photo Credit: Doris Conley.
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Identifying bald eagles by appearance is quite simple even to a novice, if one has just a hint of what to look for. Even at a bit of a distance, the white head and white tail are dead giveaways, as bald eagles are the only species in North America with both a white head and white tail. The white plumage and chocolate brown body stand out against the blue or gray skies of the Pacific Northwest as they soar overhead, especially as they are large in comparison to most birds in North America.
General Bald Eagle Facts:
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Check out the following "Top 10 Facts" you might not have known about bald eagles!
The largest bald eagle nest: The most massive nest ever found was measured at 9.5 feet (2.9 meters) in diameter and 19.7 feet (6.1 meters) tall. The nest was located in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The oldest recorded wild bald eagle was at least 38 years old. It had been banded in 1977 in New York, and years later hit and killed by a car in Henrietta, New York, in June, 2015.
There are very strict regulations for possessing an eagle and keeping it in captivity. You MUST have a permit to keep a bald eagle in captivity in the United States.
Most bald eagles in captivity today are permanently injured and cannot be released into the wild for their own safety. They are cared for by educational institutions with wildlife experts trained to properly care for the bald eagles. The facilities housing bald eagles are also required to be up to code with sufficient caging and equipment.
At the end of the twentieth century, the bald eagle population within the continental 48 states was on the brink of extinction. Only 450 pairs of bald eagles were known to remain. Hunting played a factor in the existential threat to bald eagles, but even after they had full legal protection in the US, the effects of DDT continued to devastate the population. The pesticide drained off the land into ponds and lakes, and was stored in the bodies of the fish they ate. Eagle eggs became thin-shelled and the hatch rate plummeted.
DDT is now illegal in the United States, and this has positively affected the bald eagle population. Since the 1970’s, bald eagle numbers have been on a steady rise. Today, over 9,500 pairs are happily soaring a mating and reproducing across North America.
The Bald eagle was removed from the U.S Government’s official “endangered species” list in June 1995 and transferred to the official “threatened” list. In June 2007 the bald eagle was placed on the "least concern" list - meaning no one is worrying any more about the survival of the species. That's a bald eagle fact that gives us a lot of joy.
To find bald eagles in the wild, go to places that combine water, fish, and waterfowl.
Bald eagles and golden eagles carry deep spiritual significance to Native Americans.
Indigenous peoples believe that the eagle is a messenger that can pass between the physical and spiritual worlds and connect humanity to the creator. Because of their beliefs, bald eagle feathers and claws are used in indigenous tribal gatherings, ceremonies and spiritual rituals.
To west coast First Nations people groups, the eagle represents leadership, strength, peace, focus and the highest possible respect. The wings of an eagle represent the balance and co-dependency between a mated pair of eagles, and the harmony that results from their combined efforts in life.
National Eagle Repository
The laws of the United States prohibit ownership of bald eagles or their parts. These same laws allow for the distribution of eagle feathers and dead eagle parts to federally recognized indigenous tribes for their use in religious spiritual and cultural ceremonies, festivals, and celebrations unique to the tribe.
There is a process to how eagle parts are distributed to the tribes. When a dead bald eagle or golden eagle has been found, The National Eagle Repository, a division of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, is directly and singly responsible for finding, recovering, processing, preserving, storing and distributing bald and golden eagle parts and feathers to the various indigenous tribes.
You should be aware that it is ILLEGAL to buy, sell, or own a bald eagle. This includes the eagle itself, dead or alive, as well as any parts of the eagle, including its feathers.
If you see a bald eagle that is hurt or dead, you need to call either 911, or the FWS, DO NOT touch it or try to move it unless it is in danger of being hit or preyed upon. Steps to helping an injured or dead eagle can be found through The Raptor Resource Project.
Eagle Feather Laws: If you are on a beach or on a hiking trail and you see a feather that might or might not belong to an eagle, you should know that "eagle feather laws" stipulate that only native Americans of recognized tribes may own eagle feathers. The same laws provide for fines up to $250,000 should you be found in unauthorized possession of a bald eagle feather.
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