Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
The Bald Eagle is the national bird of the United States but in the 1970’s their populations reached an all-time low, almost wiping out the entire population. The population collapse was due to hunting for sport and “protection” of fishing grounds but the biggest factor was the use of pesticides like DDT. These chemicals weakened the shells of the eggs they laid and severely affected the ability of these birds to reproduce. Since the ban of DDT in 1972, the placing of the eagles on the endangered species list and the work of reintroduction programs, the number of eagles is climbing again, to the point where they have been upgraded from endangered to threatened.
The bald eagle is not actually bald but has a bright white head on top of a dark brown body with bright yellow beaks and feet. They are 34-43 inches tall with a wingspan of 6-8 feet wide. They weigh anywhere from 7-14 pounds and may live up to 28 years.
Eagles are carnivorous, with most of their diet consisting of fish. They will also scavenge carrion, steal kills from other animals, and capture and eat small mammals, gulls and waterfowl. They are usually found near lakes, reservoirs, rivers, marshes, and coasts. You will see bald eagles soaring high in the sky.
Bald eagles mate for life with the pair constructing an enormous nest out of sticks and twigs high in a tree. The nest is usually 5-6 feet across and 2-4 feet tall. The nest is then lined with grasses, moss, cornstalks, downy feathers, and greenery. These nests are used year after year by the same pair. They usually lay a pair of eggs each year.