Dietary NeedsBald eagles are iconic birds of prey. Most of their diet is comprised by fish, but they may also often eat the carcasses of small mammals like rabbits, hares, squirrels, raccoon, and other such terrestrial prey. They tend to live near wetlands, large coasts, inland waters, or marshes, from which they source their fish-based diets. Bald eagles commonly make their nests atop mature stands of hardwood or coniferous trees. They pursue large and very tall trees to live in surrounding the waters that have their food sources. Such trees ideally should be at least 20 meters high.
Homes of the Bald EagleBald Eagles are native to Canada, Mexico, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, and the United States. The birds are sensitive to human activity, and therefore will make their nests as far away from human disturbance as possible. You can frequently find them in Florida’s mangrove swamps, the Chesapeake Bay, Wyoming, and Southern Alaska. Once greatly threatened, conservation efforts have led to an almost eightfold increase in Bald Eagle populations over the last four decades, and a 72.2% increase over the last ten years. Today, the majestic bird is listed as a species of “least concern” on the Red List of Threatened Species published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Once only found in North America, today the bird has spread to Belize, Bermuda, Ireland, Puerto Rico, the Russian Federation, and the U.S. Virgin Islands alike.
Sky High LifeBald Eagles are known to be among the most powerful fliers, and they can fly at speeds of 56-70 km/h when gliding or flapping unencumbered, and even up to 48km/h still when carrying fish or food. Even more impressively, they can also speed dive at 120-160km/h. The birds are territorial, and only migrate during winter when the waters that hold their food freezes. They are known to stay in their same habitats for their whole lives, moving between their northern and southern homes when the water bodies freeze, and make their returns during summer. Bald Eagles are communal birds, and live in packs.
Eagle CourtshipAfter a pair of bald eagles breed, females will lay their eggs, and these eggs will hatch after two months of incubation. A given bald eagle is believed to mate for life with only one partner, and will only mate with another if their original partner has died. If mates have been trying to have offspring and have not managed to do so for several years, they may also go their separate ways and try with different new mates. It is believed that at the age of three or four years into their sexual maturity, they are then ready to mate. The birds return to their habitats where they were born in order to mate, and do so following the aforementioned migration patterns. Bald Eagle courtship is facilitated through impressive displays of skilled in-flight “dancing”. Herein, partners chase, swoop, and cartwheel through the sky. They will climb to high ascents, lock talons, and freefall, unlocking their talons and separating just before they hit the ground. They also court through spectacular calls as well, wooing one another through “song”.
This page was last updated on April 25, 2017.
By James Burton
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