BALD EAGLE. Haliaeetus leucocephaluslco
IDENTIFICATION. The Bald Eagle is perhaps the most widely recognised eagle in the world. Taken as national symbol of the USA in 1782 it just pipped to the post Ben Franklin's nomination of the less aggressive Turkey .
Both sexes of the adult Bald Eagle have a distinct white head with a prominent yellow bill and yellow eyes. The body and wings are dark brown and, in common with other fish eagles such as the White-tailed Sea Eagle, the tail is white. Adult plumage is obtained at 4 to 5 years of age when the bird reaches sexual maturity.
Young eagles are greyish-brown in colour with a pale head and tail developing as they grow older.
Young are often mistaken for other eagles such as the Golden Eagle.
IN FLIGHT. Bald Eagles are strong fliers. In straight line flight speeds of 50mph plus can be reached. In a stoop the Bald Eagle may even match the speed of the Peregrine Falcon. Heights of 10,000+ feet can be achieved when soaring using the long wings to capture the updraft of hot air thermals.
DISTRIBUTION. A bird of lakes, sea coasts, rivers and marshes the Bald Eagle is a resident of the North American continent from Alaska, through Canada reaching as far south as Florida. Although the striking symbol of the USA the Bald Eagle is still occasionally persecuted or accidentally poisoned. Fortunately tireless work by conservation groups, legislation and individuals is bringing this raptor back from the 1960's all time low.
FOOD. Normally fish. If a fish is to heavy to lifted from the water the Bald Eagle uses its huge wingspan to paddle to shore. However like the Osprey if the fish is to heavy (4lb+) the bird may drown. Supplemented with waterfowl, mammals and reptiles including snakes and turtles. Carrion including salmon that die after their spawning run are also eaten.
BREEDING. March-April. 1 to 3 eggs laid in a large (3m) stick nest in tall trees or on cliffs. Young hatch after 35 days, fledging 84 days later.
SIZE. 74-107cm (29-42ins)
WINGSPAN. 184-244cm (6-8ft)
Sometimes flown in the UK as a display bird the Bald Eagle is probably best left to those who really know what they are doing and have access to large tracks of land. If you are thinking of taking up an eagle find an (eagle) experienced Austringer and study hard.