Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
A large raptor, the bald eagle has a wingspread of about 7 feet. Adults have a dark brown body and wings, white head and tail, and a yellow beak. Juveniles are mostly brown with white mottling on the body, tail, and undersides of wings. Adult plumage usually is obtained by the 6th year. In flight, the Bald Eagle often soars or glides with the wings held at a right angle to the body. As in most other raptors, females are larger than males; sexes otherwise similar in appearance.
References for Species Profile
- Anthony, R. G., R. L. Knight, G. T. Allen, B. R. McClelland, and J. L. Hodges. 1982.Habitat use by nesting and roosting Bald Eagles in the Pacific Northwest. Trans. N.A. Wildl. Nat. Resour. Conf. 47:332-342.
- Broley, C. L. 1947. Migration and nesting of Florida Bald Eagles. Wilson Bull. 59:1-68.
- Buehler, D. A., T. J. Mersmann, J. D. Fraser, and J. K. D. Seegar. 1991. Nonbreeding Bald Eagle communal and solitary roosting behavior and habitat use on the northern Chesapeake Bay. J. Wildl. Manage. 55:273-281.
- Buehler, David A. 2000. Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/506
- Chester, D. N., D. F. Stauffer, T. J. Smith, D. R. Luukkonen, and J. D. Fraser. 1990.Habitat use by nonbreeding Bald Eagles in North Carolina. J. Wildl. Manage. 54:223-234.
- Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2015. Bald Eagle. All About Birds. http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Bald_Eagle/id
- States/US Territories in which the Bald eagle, lower 48 States is known to or is believed to occur: Alabama , Arizona , Arkansas , Colorado , Indiana , Kentucky , Montana , Ohio , Pennsylvania , South Carolina , Tennessee , Texas , Virginia , Wyoming
- US Counties in which the Bald eagle, lower 48 States is known to or is believed to occur: View All
- USFWS Refuges in which the Bald eagle, lower 48 States is known to occur:
Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge, Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge, Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge... Show All Refuges
- Additional species information
Status Date Listed Lead Region Where Listed 03/11/1967 Great Lakes-Big Rivers Region (Region 3) U.S.A., conterminous (lower 48) States.
» Federal Register Documents
Date Citation Page Title 02/14/1978 43 FR 6230 6233 Determination of Certain Bald Eagle Populations as Endangered or Threatened 06/05/2007 72 FR 31141 31155 Authorizations Under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act for Take of Eagles
Date Title Plan Action Status Plan Status 09/27/1990 Chesapeake Bay Bald Eagle Recovery Plan View Implementation Progress Final Revision 1 09/08/1982 Southwestern Bald Eagle Recovery Plan View Implementation Progress Final 07/29/1983 Northern States Bald Eagle Recovery Plan View Implementation Progress Final 04/19/1989 Southeastern States Bald Eagle Recovery Plan View Implementation Progress Final Revision 1 08/25/1986 Recovery Plan for the Pacific Bald Eagle View Implementation Progress Final Date Title 05/11/2010 Bald Eagle Final Post Delisting Monitoring Plan
» Critical Habitat
No critical habitat rules have been published for the Bald eagle.
» Conservation Plans
SHA Plan Summaries Paterson, Thomas W. and Caroline H. (Spur Ranch) Pueblo of Santa Ana Amendment # 1 Pueblo of Santa Ana Safe Harbor Agreement Tagshinny Tree Farm Tempe, City of, Rio Salado SHA
» Life History
Bald Eagles typically breed and winter in forested areas adjacent to large bodies of water. Throughout range, selects large, super-canopy roost trees that are open and accessible. Nests are usually constructed below the crown of a tree, often highest point where large branches join bole of tree. Nests are usually constructed below the crown of a tree, often the highest point where large branches join the bole of a tree. Nests are constructed from an array of sticks placed in an interwoven pattern. Other materials added as fillers may include grasses, mosses, even corn stalks. Nest bowls are lined with finer woody materials, especially Spanish moss in Florida, and ultimately lined with downy feathers from the adults. Nests are massive; often exceeding several thousand kilograms in weight.
The Bald Eagle is an opportunistic forager; food habits highly varied across range and site-specific, based on prey species available. Bald Eagles use carrion of fish, birds, and mammals extensively wherever encountered at sites that provide disturbance-free access from the ground. Bald Eagles hunt from perches or while soaring over suitable habitat and attempt to take most prey on the wing (e.g., fish, waterfowl, small mammals) but success varies greatly.
Movement / Home Range
Bald Eagles breed throughout much of Canada and Alaska, in addition to scattered sites across the lower 48 states, from California to the southeastern U.S. coast and Florida. Wintering covers most of the contiguous U.S., with some year-round distribution in the northwest. Northern birds return to breeding grounds as soon as weather and food availability permit, generally between January and March. Within 50 miles north of Southerly International Boundary between Arizona and Mexico, bald eagles may be found along rivers and lakes as winter residents or migrants. There are no breeding sites within this specific area.
Some major threats to Bald Eagles include ingestion of contaminants, such as DDT which causes eggshell thinning, ingestion of lead, collisions with stationary and moving objects, degradation of shoreline habitat, and disturbance at nest and roost sites. Throughout breeding range, populations have shown tremendous growth since ban of DDT in 1972. In 1963, an estimated 417 breeding pairs existed in the lower 48 states; increased to >5,000 pairs in 1997, growth on average of almost 8%/year. During migration, they are regularly counted at census stations, however winter estimates are problematic as visibility differs among areas.
» Other Resources
NatureServe Explorer Species Reports -- NatureServe Explorer is a source for authoritative conservation information on more than 50,000 plants, animals and ecological communtities of the U.S and Canada. NatureServe Explorer provides in-depth information on rare and endangered species, but includes common plants and animals too. NatureServe Explorer is a product of NatureServe in collaboration with the Natural Heritage Network.
ITIS Reports -- ITIS (the Integrated Taxonomic Information System) is a source for authoritative taxonomic information on plants, animals, fungi, and microbes of North America and the world.
FWS Digital Media Library -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Digital Library is a searchable collection of selected images, historical artifacts, audio clips, publications, and video.