Sea Eagles

The Bald Eagle

or American Eagle, is the national bird of the United States. The bald eagle is so named because its whitefeathered head appears bald when seen from a distance. It has a brown body, white tail, and thick yellow bill. The bald eagle is found throughout North America, from Alaska to Mexico. In the United States it is protected by federal law.

The bald eagleThe bald eagle is the national bird of the United States.

Bald eagles are about 30 to 43 inches (76 to 109 cm) long with a wingspan of 78 to 96 inches (2 to 2.4 m). Females are usually larger than males. Bald eagles are found near lakes, rivers, marshes, and seacoasts. They feed on fish, small mammals, birds, and carrion. They have exceptional vision and are believed to see small objects at a distance of up to three miles (5 km).

The nest of the bald eagle is similar to that of the golden eagle, but it is usually located in a tree near water. The female lays two or three white eggs. The eaglets are light brown for about seven years, then acquire their adult plumage.

Which Eagle Is a Pirate?

Bald eagles are well known for pirating, or stealing, fish from other fishing birds. Two biologists once saw an eagle attack an osprey that was carrying a fish high in the air. The eagle fought until the osprey dropped the fish. Then the eagle dived and caught the falling fish before it hit the water.

Bald eagles also eat water birds, such as coots and herons. Sometimes they eat carrion. Bald eagles are even big and strong enough to kill and eat geese and jackrabbits.

Eagles build big, stick nests called aeries (AIR eez) in tall treetops or on cliffs. Eagles often use the same aerie year after year, adding new sticks each year. Young bald eagles have dark feathers all over. They don’t get their white head feathers until they are 6 or 7 years old. By then, they are skilled hunters and are old enough to breed.

Other Sea Eagles

Steller's sea eagleis found in arctic regions. It is black and white with a long, wedge-shaped tail and a long, narrow bill. The white-tailed sea eagle, or gray sea eagle, is found in Iceland and Greenland and from Norway to Siberia and Japan. It is similar in size and color to the bald eagle but has a light brown head and gray patches on the wings. It is an endangered species.

Steller's sea eagleSteller's sea eagle is one of the largest and most powerful raptors.

Eagles belong to the hawk family, Accipitridae. The golden eagle is Aquila chrysaetos; harpy eagle, Harpia harpyja; monkey-eating eagle, Pithecophaga jefferyi; crowned eagle, Stephanoaetus coronatus. The bald eagle is Haliaeetus leucocephalus; Steller's sea eagle, H. pelagicus; white-tailed sea eagle, H. albicilla.