The Bald Eagle was close to extinction at one time but in 1995, it was removed from the Endangered Species list. It remained on the Threatened Species list, however, until 2007. With January 10th being Save The Eagles Day, here are 12 facts you may not know about these fascinating birds of prey:
12 Facts About the American Bald Eagle
- The Bald Eagle is our nation’s symbol. The Bald Eagle appears on the Great Seal of the United States of America. Not only is the Bald Eagle a symbol of our nation, but it is our national bird, and our national animal.
- They weren’t necessarily in competition with the turkey. Rumors continue to circulate from one century to the next that Benjamin Franklin wanted the wild turkey to be our national emblem instead of the Bald Eagle. The fact is Mr. Franklin never made his preference public. What he did do is promote the virtues of the turkey in a personal letter to his daughter, in which he wrote, the eagle is “a bird of bad moral character that does not get his living honestly,” because it steals food from the fishing hawk, and is “too lazy to fish for himself.” Mr. Franklin referred to the turkey in his letter as “a much more respectable bird.” He further stated that the turkey was “a bird of courage.” Later, when he was officially asked to propose a national symbol for our seal, he suggested a biblical one depicting Moses, and an account from the Book of Exodus, instead of the eagle or turkey.
- They have a large habitat. Bald Eagles can be found in all of the contiguous United States, and in most of Alaska. They also nest and hunt in parts of Canada, and northern Mexico.
- They’re not really bald. Although the bird is not bald, the term Bald Eagle was used historically to describe a white-head. The adult bird has a white head and tail, and a blackish-brown body. Interesting, young Bald Eagles do not have white heads or tails, like adults, and actually look similar to adult Golden Eagles.
- They don’t mind the cold. The Bald Eagle has been sighted in the winter months along rivers, lakes, marshes, and other bodies of water in the interior continental states.
- The term “eagle eye” comes from their great vision. Eagles have keen vision that is six times sharper than that of a human. Eagles are able to spot a rabbit or fish from a distance of over a mile away.
- They’re great divers. Eagles can glide and dive at speeds of over 100 miles per hour.
- Weight: Eagles weigh up to twelve pounds, and are able to carry objects near their own body weight.
- They have a primarily an all-seafood diet. Ninety percent of an eagle’s diet consists of fish. Although they hunt fish in rivers and streams, they rarely get wet. When in flight, eagles dip only their feet into the water to catch a fish. Eagles also catch fish by standing still in shallow water and waiting for a fish to swim by. See video below!
- They have mid-air mating rituals. Eagles have a dramatic mating ritual that takes place in midair. During mating season, a female eagle carries a stick up into the air and drops it in the sky near a male. If the male is interested in the female, he will respond by swooping up the stick, and returning it to her. They may repeat this ritual multiple times. They complete their courtship by flying high in the air, locking their talons together, drawing in their wings, and tumbling interlocked in a free fall towards the ground. Just before hitting the ground, they unlock their talons, spread their wings, and fly back up into the sky.
- The females build large nests. Eagles make huge nests out of sticks, in the top of tall trees. In fact, their tree nests are the largest of any recorded animal species. These large nests are also heavy. The largest recorded eagle’s nest was discovered in St. Petersburg, Florida. It measured 9.5 feet in diameter and was 20 feet deep. It weighed close to 3 tons.
- They have good parenting skills. The female Bald Eagle typically lays 2 eggs in a clutch. A parent eagle covers its young in the nest with its wings, like an umbrella, to protect it from hot Sun and heavy rainfall. Eaglets practice hopping, then jumping, and flapping its wings in the nest before taking its first flight. The adult eagle flies alongside its eaglet while it is learning to fly. Eaglets begin to fly between their tenth and fifteenth week. When it is time for an eaglet to leave the nest, a parent eagle may place food on a nearby limb to encourage a hesitant eaglet.