Raptors, also known as birds of prey, are distinguished from other landbirds and birds that eat live food, by their method and catching and eating prey with their <i>talons</i>. Other birds may also catch and eat live food, but it is the raptors specialized tools that give this designation. Raptors are only a small compliment of the great diversity of landbird species that Alaska supports. Because of the unique geographic position of Alaska, many of the state's landbirds are found very rarely or not at all in other parts of the United States or North America.
For example, Alaska supports the the entire U.S. breeding population of Gyrfalcon, Snowy and Northern Hawk owl. Additionally, Alaska hosts more than 75% of the breeding populations of Bald Eagle within the U.S.
To read about other landbird species, click here.
Bald Eagle Natural History
Bald eagles are a North American species that occur in Alaska, Canada and the contiguous United States into the northern edge of Mexico. The largest North American breeding populations are in Alaska and Canada, but there are also significant bald eagle populations in the Great Lakes states, Florida, the Pacific Northwest, the Greater Yellowstone area, Maine, and the Chesapeake Bay region.
Adult bald eagles have the dark brown body and distinctive white head and tail. In contrast, juvenile bald eagles have mottled brown and white plumage. They gradually acquire the adult plumage as they mature, which takes about five years. Most bald eagles can breed at 4 or 5 years of age, but many do not start breeding until they are older. Bald eagles in the wild can live to more than 30 years in exceptional circumstances, but average longevity is significantly less.
Bald eagles are opportunistic feeders with fish comprising much of their diet. They also eat waterfowl, shorebirds, colonial waterbirds, small mammals, marine invertebrates, and carrion (often along roads or at landfills). Because they are visual hunters, eagles typically locate their prey from a conspicuous perch, or soaring flight, then swoop down and strike.
The life history of bald eagles can be broadly categorized into nesting and non-nesting periods. The nesting period varies by latitude; in Alaska it begins with courtship and nest building in February and ends when the young fledge by late August into early September. The young are attended by the adults near the nest for several weeks after fledging. The non-nesting period is thus from September through January.
To read about Bald Eagle nesting period and sensitivity to human activity, click below.
Injured, Sick, or Orphaned Eagles
If you find injured, sick, or orphaned eagles:
Leave them where you find them. Eagles can inflict serious injuries if you don’t know how to handle them properly. As soon as you can, call the nearest wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian for further instructions. Wildlife rehabilitation organizations in Alaska include: (phone list and numbers updated 2/2017)
- Anchorage: Bird Treatment and Learning Center – 907-562-4852
- MatSu Valley: Alaska Wildbird Rehab Center – 907-892-2927
- Homer: Alaska Maritime NWR - 907-235-6546
- Seward: Alaska SeaLife Center – 1-888-774-7325
- Soldotna: Kenai NWR – 907-260-7021
- Juneau: Juneau Raptor Center – 907-568-8393
- Sitka: Alaska Raptor Center – 907-747-8662
- Prudhoe Bay: Alaska Clean Seas – 907-659-3207
Contact information for other wildlife rehabilitators and information on becoming a wildlife rehabilitator are available from the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association or from the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council.
Further information is available from the Alaska Interagency Avian Influenza hotline at 1-866-527-3358 (1-866-5-BRDFLU) or the Alaska Migratory Bird Permit Office at 907-786-3693.
Bald Eagle Nest Atlas
Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nest surveys have been conducted in Alaska since the 1960's to locate nest sites so land managers can protect them in compliance with with the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (16 USC 668a - 668d). The Act prohibits the take of bald eagles, their nests and eggs either directly such as by shooting or indirectly such as by disturbance of nesting eagles without a permit. Most nests have been located in southeastern Alaska, but extensive surveys have also been conducted on Kodiak Island, the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska Peninsula, Prince William Sound and several mainland rivers.
For many years, survey results were kept on maps and data cards in various offices scattered across Alaska. It was difficult for managers to locate survey information or know what had been surveyed. With the recent rapid advances in Geographic Information System (GIS) software and the Internet, it is now possible to make this information readily available to many more users. This website is an attempt to provide a complete record of survey information for bald eagle nests in Alaska and provide useful contacts and other information to assist in the conservation of our national emblem, the bald eagle.
Consult the "National Bald Eagle Management Guidelines" (pdf) if you have questions about the bald eagle management in Alaska or the lower 48 states.
The Alaska Bald Eagle Nest Atlas (ABENA) is currently being redesigned to make the data more accessible. Please contact Steve Lewis with questions about ABENA or for information on nest locations.
Reports and Publications
Below is a list of some reports and publications concerning Bald Eagles in Alaska.
To receive a copy of a publication or report listed here, please contact:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
Migratory Bird Management – Raptors
3000 Vintage Blvd. Ste. 240
Juneau, Alaska 99801
Or call 907-780-1163
Anthony, R.G. 2001. Low productivity of bald eagles on Prince of Wales Island, southeast Alaska. Journal of Raptor Research 35: 1-8.
Anthony, R.G., R.L. Knight, G.T. Allen, B.R. McClelland, and J.I. Hodges. 1982. Habitat use by nesting and roosting bald eagles in the Pacific Northwest. Transactions of the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference 47:332-342.
Bernatowicz, J.A., P.F. Schempf, and T.D. Bowman. 1996. Bald eagle productivity in south-central Alaska in 1989 and 1990 after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. American Fisheries Society Symposium 18:785-797.
Bowman, T.D., P.F. Schempf, and J.A. Bernatowicz. 1993. Effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill on bald eagles. Exxon Valdez oil spill state/federal natural resource damage assessment final report. Bird Study Number 4: Final Report. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage, AK.
Bowman, T.D., P.F. Schempf, and J.A. Bernatowicz. 1995. Bald eagle survival and population dynamics in Alaska after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Journal of Wildlife Management 59:317-324.
Bowman, T.D., P.F. Schempf, and J.I. Hodges. 1997. Bald eagle population in Prince William Sound after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Journal of Wildlife Management 61: 962-967.
Bowman, T.D., and P.F. Schempf. 1999. Detection of bald eagles during aerial surveys in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Journal of Raptor Research 33:299-304.
Cain, S.L. 1985. Nesting activity time budgets of bald eagles in southeastern Alaska. MS Thesis, University of Montana, Missoula, MT.
Cain, S.L. 1985. New longevity record for the bald eagle. Journal of Field Ornithology 57:173.
Cain, S.L., and J.I. Hodges. 1989. A floating-fish snare for capturing Bald Eagles. Journal of Raptor Research 23:10-13.
Gende, S.M., and M.F. Willson. 1997. Supplemental feeding experiments of nesting bald eagles in southeastern Alaska. Journal of Field Ornithology 68:590-601.
Gende, S.M., M.F. Willson, and M. Jacobson. 1997. Reproductive success of bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and its association with habitat or landscape features and weather in southeast Alaska. Canadian Journal of Zoology 75:1595-1604.
Gende, S.M., M.F. Willson, B.H. Marston, M. Jacobson, and W.P. Smith. 1998. Bald eagle nesting density and success in relation to distance from clearcut logging in southeast Alaska. Biological Conservation 83:121-126.
Hansen, A.J. 1986. Fighting behavior in bald eagles: A test of game theory. Ecology 67:787-797.
Hansen, A.J. 1987. Regulation of bald eagle reproductive rates in southeast Alaska. Ecology 68:1387-1392.
Hansen, A.J., E.L. Boeker, J.I. Hodges, and D.R. Cline. 1984. Bald eagles of the Chilkat Valley, Alaska: ecology, behavior, and management. National Audubon Society, New York, NY.
Hansen, A.J., M.I. Dyer, H.H. Shugart and E.L. Boeker. 1986. Behavioral ecology of bald eagles along the Northwest coast: a landscape perspective. Unpublished report ORNL/TM-9683. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Hansen, A.J., and J.I. Hodges. 1985. High rates of nonbreeding adult bald eagles in southeastern Alaska. Journal of Wildlife Management 49:454-458.
Hodges, J. 1959. The bald eagle in the upper Mississippi Valley. Iowa Bird Life 29:86-91.
Hodges, J. 1979. A ring of eagles. Alaska 45:18-19.
Hodges, J.I. 1982. Bald eagle nesting studies in Seymour Canal, southeast Alaska. Condor 84: 125-127.
Hodges, J.I. 2011. Bald eagle population surveys of the North Pacific Ocean, 1967-2010. Northwestern Naturalist 92:7-12.
Hodges, J.I. 1982. Evaluation of the 100 meter protective zone for bald eagle nests in southeast Alaska. Unpublished report, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Juneau, AK.
Hodges, J.I., E.L. Boeker and A.J. Hansen. 1987. Movements of radio-tagged bald eagles, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, in and from southeastern Alaska. Canadian Field-Naturalist 101:136-140.
Hodges, J.I., and J.G. King. 1982. Bald eagle (Alaska). Pages 50-51 in D.E. Davis [Ed.]. CRC handbook of census methods for terrestrial vertebrates. CRC Press, Inc., Boca Raton, FL.
Hodges, J.I., J.G. King, and F.C. Robards. 1979. Resurvey of the bald eagle breeding population in southeast Alaska. Journal of Wildlife Management 43: 219-221.
Hodges, J.I., J.G. King, and R. Davies. 1984. Bald eagle breeding population survey of coastal British Columbia. Journal of Wildlife Management 48:993-998.
Hodges, J.I., and F.C. Robards. 1982. Observations of 3,850 bald eagle nests in southeast Alaska. pp. 37-46 In W.N. Ladd and P.F. Schempf [Eds.]. Raptor Management and Biology in Alaska and Western Canada. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage, AK.
Jacobson, M.J. 1995. Bald eagle surveys in Alaska's Chilkat Valley, 1984-94. Journal of Raptor Research 29:58-59.
Jacobson, M.J., and J.I. Hodges. 1999. Population trend of adult bald eagles in southeast Alaska, 1967-97. Journal of Raptor Research 33:295-298.
King, J.G., F.C. Robards, and C.J. Lensink. 1972. Census of the bald eagle breeding population in southeast Alaska. Journal of Wildlife Management 36:1292-1295.
Robards, F.C. 1966. Capture, handling, and banding of bald eagles. Unpublished report, U.S. Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife, Juneau, AK.
Robards, F.C. 1978. Bald eagles in Alaska. Pages 83-86 in T.N. Ingram [Ed.]. Learning about eagles: proceedings of Bald Eagle Days, 1978. Eagle Valley Environmentalists, Inc., Apple River, IL.
Robards, F.C. 1980. Alaska [nest surveys]. Pages 199-200 in T.N. Ingram [Ed.]. Raptor rehabilitation - eagle nesting biology: proceedings of Bald Eagle Days, 1980. Eagle Valley Environmentalists, Inc., Apple River, IL.
Robards, F.C., and J.G. King. 1966. Census, nesting, and productivity of bald eagles [in] southeast Alaska, 1966. Unpublished report, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Juneau, AK.
Robards, F.C., and J.G. King. 1966. Nesting and productivity of bald eagles: southeast Alaska -1966. US Department of Interior, Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife, Juneau, AK.
Robards, F.C., and J.I. Hodges. 1978. Observations from 2,760 bald eagle nests in southeast Alaska: progress report 1969-1976. Pages 8-25 in T.N. Ingram [Ed.]. Learning about eagles: proceedings of Bald Eagle Days, 1978. Eagle Valley Environmentalists, Inc., Apple River, IL.
Robards, F.C., and A. Taylor. 1973. Bald eagles in Alaska. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service, Juneau, Alaska.
Schempf, P.F. 1982. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service involvement with raptors in Alaska. Pages 12-18 in W.N. Ladd and P.F. Schempf [Eds.]. Raptor management and biology in Alaska and western Canada. Proceedings of a symposium and workshop, Feb. 17-20, 1981. US Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage, AK.
Schempf, P.F. 1988. The merlin in Alaska. Hawk Trust Annual Report 17:22-24.
Schempf, P.F. 1989. Raptors in Alaska. Pages 144-154 in B.G. Pendleton [Ed.]. Proceedings of the western raptor management symposium and workshop. National Wildlife Federation, Washington, DC.
Schempf, P.F., and M.R. Fuller. 1982. A workshop on raptor management and biology in Alaska and western Canada - a summary. Pages 305-318 in W.N. Ladd and P.F. Schempf [Eds.]. Raptor management and biology in Alaska and western Canada. Proceedings of a symposium and workshop, Feb. 17-20, 1981. US Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage, AK.
Schempf, P.F. 1997. Bald eagle longevity record from southeastern Alaska. Journal of Field Ornithology 68:150-151.
Sidle, W.B., L.H. Suring and J.I. Hodges Jr. 1986. The bald eagle in southeast Alaska. General Technical Report, R10-MB-9. USDA, Forest Service, Tongass National Forest, Ketchikan, AK.
Wiemeyer, S.N., B.M. Mulhern, F.L. Ligas, R.J. Hensel, J.E. Mathisen, F.C. Robards and S. Postupalsky. 1972. Residues of organochlorine pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, and mercury in bald eagle eggs and changes in shell thickness - 1969 and 1970. Pesticide Monitoring Journal 6:50-55.
Willson, M.F., S.M. Gende, and B.H. Marston. 1997. Wildlife habitat models and land management plans: Lessons from the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in Tongass National Forest. Natural Areas Journal 17:26-29.
Wotawa, M.A., J.I. Hodges and P. Nye. 1984. Capture of Alaskan bald eagles for translocation to New York and related productivity studies, 1983-1984. Unpublished report. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Juneau, AK.
Wright, B.A., and P.F. Schempf [Eds.]. 2010. Bald eagles in Alaska. Hancock House Publishers, Ltd., Blaine, WA.