American Bald Eagle

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American Bald Eagle 2American Bald Eagle 2Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, Kansas

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CLASS: Aves (Birds)

ORDER: Accipitriformes (Order that includes most of the diurnal birds of prey like hawks, eagles, and vultures. Note: Diurnal = active during the daytime, the antonym of nocturnal)

FAMILY: Accipitridae (A large family of carnivorous birds that have comparatively rounded wings, long legs, and an unnotched bill. This family includes the typical hawks and goshawks, the kites, and generally the eagles)

GENUS/ SPECIES: Haliaeetus leucocephalus

American Bald Eagle 1American Bald Eagle 1Wildlife Safari Park in Ashland, Nebraska

LIFE SPAN: American Bald Eagles can live up to 18-22 years in the wild, and over 30 years in captivity

HABITAT:  American Bald Eagles can be found throughout North America. According to the Smithsonian National Zoo’s Bald Eagle page, their breeding population ranges essentially from central Alaska through a large portion of Canada and the Great Lakes across to Maine, through the Rocky Mountains to Yellowstone, along the Gulf coast from Texas east to Florida, then north along the Atlantic coast to New Jersey, with scattered breeders elsewhere.

These majestic birds chiefly reside in coastal areas or near large inland lakes and rivers that are teeming with fish. American Bald Eagles can be located perched in large trees along the shores of these bodies of water or majestically soaring through the skies above.

DIET: American Bald Eagle are carnivores (meat eaters) who primarily eat fish. They will also eat small animals like rabbits, reptiles, amphibians and crabs as well as smaller birds and other bird's eggs.

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A male American Bald Eagle is called a Bald Eagle (no special term exists)

A female American Bald Eagle is called a Bald Eagle (no special term exists)

A young American Bald Eagle is called an eaglet

A group of American Bald Eagles has many collective nouns, such as an aerie, convocation, jubilee, soar, and tower of eagles. (However, according to the Michigan University Museum of Zoology, Bald Eagles are typically solitary creatures. When there is abundant food, though, they may gather with others in groups of up to 400.)

On June 20, 1782, the American Bald Eagle was chosen as the emblem of the United States because of its long life, great strength and majestic looks. Since this majestic bird has come to be an enduring symbol of freedom for it is said “Living as he does on the tops of lofty mountains, amid the solitary grandeur of Nature, he has unlimited freedom…”

The American Bald Eagle is the only eagle that is unique in North America as the Golden Eagle can be found throughout the entire Northern Hemisphere.

American Bald Eagles aren’t really bald! They get their name due to their white heads being coupled with their dark brown bodies. This contrast of colors makes them seem bald from a distance.

Juvenile American Bald Eagles are patchy brown in color with white blotches. They don’t obtain the full distinctive plumage that’s found on mature birds until they are 4-5 years old.

American Bald Eagles have long, wide wings that give these majestic birds the ability to stay aloft and conserve energy by soaring

The piercing, full-color vision of American Bald Eagles is their most developed sense, which they use to locate prey

It is believed that American Bald Eagles are monogamous. This means that these birds mate for life. It is thought that an American Bald Eagle will only find another mate if it is widowed.

The true call of American Bald Eagles is a sort of high-pitched giggle or a weak scream. This sound is so unremarkable that Hollywood sound editors typically dub the piercing, earthy screams of a red-tailed hawk over the true call of an American Bald Eagle to make it sound more impressive.

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American Bald Eagles are considered Least Concern according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. This means that the American Bald Eagle population has been evaluated but it does not currently qualify for any other category such as “near threatened”, “threatened”, “endangered”, or “critically endangered”.

When the United States adopted the American Bald Eagle as our national symbol in 1782, there were an estimated 100,000 nesting eagles living in this country. However, it is believed that the American Bald Eagle population suffered a major decline in the mid to late 1800’s. These birds, like other raptors (birds of prey), used to be considered threats to chickens, lambs, and domestic livestock- even though American Bald Eagles mainly eat fish and small animals like rabbits. Due to this received threat, these majestic raptors (along with other birds of prey) were shot by farmers in an effort to protect their farm animals. This persecution, when coupled with the loss of nesting habitat, resulted in a drastic reduction of the American Bald Eagle population.

Additionally, following World War II, many people in the United States began using DDT as a pesticide to control mosquitoes and other insects. The major use of this toxic substance resulted in the pollution of our waterways and the poisoning of American Bald Eagles (and other animals) who ingested fish that had absorbed this harmful chemical. DDT interfered with the ability of the American Bald Eagles (and other birds such as peregrine falcons and brown pelicans) to produce strong eggshells. This resulted in eggs with shells that were so thin they frequently broke during incubation or simply failed to hatch. This population collapse culminated 40 years ago with our national symbol being in danger of extinction throughout most of its range.

Since then the federal government banned the use of DDT and placed the American Bald Eagle under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. This listing of our national symbol as an endangered species gave the US Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies the ability to help bring about the recovery of American Bald Eagles through captive breeding programs, reintroduction efforts, and the protection of nest sites during the breeding season.

Additionally, the Act afforded law enforcement protection to American Bald Eagles (and Golden Eagles)  by “prohibiting the take, possession, sale, purchase, barter, offer to sell, purchase or barter, transport, export or import, of any bald or golden eagle, alive or dead, including any part, nest, or egg, unless allowed by permit” (Note: "Take" includes pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, molest or disturb)

These actions have helped American Bald Eagles make a significant recovery. In fact, in July 1995, the US Fish and Wildlife Service was able to announce that the population of our national symbol had recovered to the point that the conservation status of American Bald Eagles was changed from “endangered” to “threatened.” Then on June 28, 2007, this agency announced the recovery of our national symbol and removed American Bald Eagles from the list of threatened and endangered species!

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Post messages on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and send emails to your family and friends expressing your concern for the plight of the American Bald Eagle and encouraging them to become involved as well.

Write letters to your elected officials in Washington DC and to leaders in nations where American Bald Eagle live explaining why the conservation of American Bald Eagle is important to you and encouraging these officials to work to help keep American Bald Eagle from ever becoming extinct in the wild.

Help to improve the environment around you and around the world by working to reduce, recycle, and reuse. This will help eliminate waste and will greatly improve the world in which we all live.

And when you shop at Joe’s Cowtown Photos, you can designate American Bald Eagle-centric programs and initiatives such as the American Eagle Foundation,  the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)’s Adopt a Bald Eagle program, and the Defenders of Wildlife’s work on behalf of Bald Eagles as the beneficiary of the charitable portion of your purchase. (For more information on Joe’s Cowtown Photos charitable giving program, Cowtown Photos Cares!, click here.)

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The American Bird Conservancy: Bald Eagle

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute: Bald Eagle

American Bald Eagle Information

Live Science- Bald Eagles: Facts About American Mascot

Defenders of Wildlife: Bald Eagle

Mental Floss: 14 Bold Facts About Bald Eagles Species Guide: Bald Eagle

The IUCN Red List of Endangered Species: Bald Eagle Page

US Fish and Wildlife Service Bald Eagle Fact Sheet:  Fact Sheet: Natural History, Ecology, and History of Recovery

US Fish & Wildlife Service: Bald Eagle- Federal Laws that Protect Bald Eagles

The American Eagle Foundation

Defenders of Wildlife: Bald Eagle page

The White House Page

The United States Senate Page

The United States House of Representatives Page

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The information provided in this Animal Info page was compiled by Joe Hoffman (St. Pius X Elementary School Class of 1986 and Founder/Owner of Joe’s Cowtown Photos) and was proof-read and edited by Anita Striegel (Retired 8th Grade Teacher from St. Pius X Elementary School- Joe’s former teacher!)


To access the Animal Info main pageclick here!