Bald Eagle: Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Male bald eagles generally measure 3 feet tall, weigh 7 to 10 pounds, and have a wingspan of 6 1/2 feet. Females tend to be slightly larger. They weigh up to 14 pounds with a wingspan of 8 feet. This majestic bird with its white head and tail feathers, has large pale eyes, a yellow beak, and powerful, black talons.
From Eaglet to Eagle: Adults mate for life and tend to keep the same nest year after year. Nest sites are usually within 1/2 mile of water and at the top of tall, established trees. The female usually lays 2 eggs and after 35 days of incubation, the eggs hatch. Both parents help feed the young. The young leave the nest after 75 days.
What's for Dinner?: Bald eagles feed on fish, waterfowl and other birds, small mammals, and carrion (dead animals).
Here to There: Bald eagles are abundant in Alaska and Canada. The wintering areas for the bald eagle include the lower areas of the Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois Rivers, Florida and the Pacific Coast. In recent years, an average of 45 bald eagles have stayed the winter below the Garrison Dam in North Dakota. Sightings of a single active nest in North Dakota have been reported in 1988, 1990, and 1991.
Natural Habitat: Bald eagles prefer forested habitats near bodies of water. During the winter in North Dakota, bald eagles can be seen near the tailrace or water release area of the Garrison Dam. Migrating eagles have been sighted throughout North Dakota.
Interesting Fact: An eagle's nest can weigh more than a ton!
Reasons for Population Decline: There are many reasons for the decline in the bald eagle population. As in the past, the loss of habitat, shooting, and trapping continue to be a problem for the bald eagle. During the 1950's and 1960's, the use of pesticides became a major problem. The use of DDT created a domino effect within the eagles' food chain. Residues from the DDT accumulated in fish, a source of food for eagles. As a result of digesting fish, the eagles accumulated DDT in their body which caused the thinning of the eggshells.