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Eagle Identification

image of bald eagle and eagle identification icon

Bald and golden eagles are the largest flying predators in North America and share some similarities, with wingspans around 6+ feet and needle-sharp curved talons as long as 2.5 inches. They also have some key differences such as coloration, diet, and habitat.

Understanding eagle characteristics is key to properly identifying them, which is very important in determining the need for a permit and what kind of permit may be needed. Learn more by selecting an eagle type.

  • Bald Eagles

    close up image of bald eagle head

    As the national emblem of the United States and one of the greatest Endangered Species Act success stories, there's no shortage of exposure for these media darlings. But believe it or not, correctly identifying them is not always straightforward.

    While their white head and tail feathers are usually the giveaway, they don't have these until they're about 5-1/2 years old, so you may need to rely on less obvious characteristics. And if your only evidence is a nest, you'll need to know how to tell it apart from other bird nests.

    Learn more about indentifying bald eagles...
  • Golden Eagles

    close up image of golden eagle head

    Exhibiting both strength and beauty with their golden plumage and powerful beak and talons, this accomplished hunter is found predominantly in the Western United States, including state-wide in Washtington, Oregon, and Idaho.

    Though never listed under the Endangered Species Act, there is growing concern that populations may be in decline as their historic range faces continued loss primarily due to human development. Golden eagles are protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and you can help with ongoing research and protection by first learning how to correctly identify them.

    Learn more about identifying golden eagles...
bald eagle base photo ©Guy Monty; bald eagle thumbnail ©Pen Waggener; golden eagle thumbnail ©Joachim S. Müller;
immature bald eagle ©Rick Leche
Last Updated: July 16, 2014
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