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Zoom Birds
All About the Bald Eagle
Eagle Quiz --- Eagle Printout

The bald eagle is a magnificent bird of prey. It is not really bald, it just has white feathers on its head. The derivation of the name "bald" is from an obsolete English word meaning white.

Since 1782, the bald eagle has been the national symbol of the United States of America.

Anatomy
Bald eagles have a long, downward-curving yellow bill, and large, keen eyes. These strong fliers have white feathers on their head, tail, and wing tips; the body has brown feathers. The feet have knife-like talons. Eagles have about 7,000 feathers. Adult eagles have a 7 ft (2.3 m) wingspan and can reach 3 ft (1 m) in height. They weigh between 9 and 14 pounds; the females are 30% larger than the males.

Flight and Swimming
Bald eagles are powerful fliers who can reach speeds of up to 100 miles per hour (160 kph) during a dive. Average flight speeds are about 20 to 40 mph (30 to 65 kph). They can soar for hours on end.

Eagles can also swim, using their wings to propel themselves through the water. Since their diet is primarily fish, this skill comes in quite handy.

Prey
Eagles are carnivores and hunt during the day (they are diurnal). They use their sense of sight to find prey. An eagles can spot a rabbit from as far as a mile away. Eagles can see color. Prey is grabbed with the eagle's strong talons. Their diet is mostly fish. They also hunt small mammals, snakes (even rattlesnakes), and other birds. They also scavenge dead animals (including road kill).

Eagles use their beak to remove undigestable feathers or fur before eating a larger animal. They eat smaller prey whole and regurgitate (vomit) the inedible parts (like hair, feathers, and bone).

Habitat
Bald eagles live in forests near the shores of lakes and rivers.

Range
Bald eagles are found in North America from Florida to Alaska.

Nesting and Reproduction
Eagles reach maturity at 4 to 5 years. When they mate, they mate for life.

Bald eagles build an enormous nest from twigs and leaves. The nest, called an aerie, can be up to eight feet across and may weigh a ton! Nests are located high from the ground, either in a large tree or on a cliff. Eagles may use the same enormous nest over and over again for years.

A clutch of one to three eggs eggs is laid sometime from December to March. The eggs take about a month to a month and a half to hatch (this is called the incubation period). Both males and females help incubate the eggs in the nest. They will feed the hatchlings until they learn to fly (fledge).

Life Span
Eagles can live up to 20 to 30 years in the wild. Like most animals, they usually live even longer in captivity.

Ecological Status
Eagles are a threatened species. They were reclassified from "endangered" to "threatened" in the lower 48 states in 1994.

Classification


Web Links about Eagles
Bald eagle information from The Bald Eagle Foundation.
Place to go to watch eagles
Eagle information from the Chaffee Zoo, Fresno, California, USA.
Information on the Golden Eagle from Illinois Natural History Survey
Audubon.org


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