Species Identification - Birds

Bald Eagle - Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Family: Eagles


Description: As the US national symbol, the iconic Bald Eagle is readily identified by its white head and tail. It has a large yellow hooked beak. The immature Bald Eagle does not have the white head and tail until it attains breeding age at 4-5 years. As it matures, it may be mistaken for osprey because of similar coloration. Bald Eagles build the largest nest of any North American bird and the largest tree nests ever recorded for any animal species—13’ deep, 8’ wide. It feeds on fish and carrion. Females are about 25% larger than males. In the last half of the 20th century, the Bald Eagle was nearly extinct in the US because DDT in the environment thinned the bird’s shells by affecting its calcium metabolism. Oil, lead, and mercury pollution, as well as hunting, power-line electrocution, and in-flight collisions also kill Bald Eagles. Declared an endangered species in 1967, DDT use was banned and mating pairs were imported from Canada to repopulate the US. In July 1995, it was officially reclassified as threatened.

Range: Rare sightings. Intense recovery programs have increased the numbers of bald eagles and over half of the contiguous states have at least 100 breeding pairs. They live near seacoasts, rivers, and lakes.

Want to know more? See page 10 of the fall 2015 issue Logerhead Log

Photos by Carl Berube

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