American Bald Eagle

American Bald Eagle
American Bald Eagle
Haliaeetus Leucocephalus

The Bald Eagle is a member of the Accipitridae family, which includes all Hawks and Eagles. Easily identified by their white head, white tail and heavy yellow beak, Bald eagles are about 30" tall with a wing span of between six and 7 1/2 feet. Watching an eagle soar on the updrafts over the river is an awe-inspiring sight.

Male and females of the species look the same, but the female will tend to be slightly larger. Your birds, who take four years to mature, do not have the white head or tail.

Bald Eagles breed in interior Canada, around the great lakes and in the west. They winter along streams and lakes in the United States.

In the 1950's the numbers of Eagles was greatly diminished by illegal shooting, water pollution and the widespread overuse of certain pesticides such as DDT. Eagles feed mainly on fish they catch from rivers, streams and lakes. They chemicals, while they would not kill the birds, made the shells of the eggs so thin that they would be easily crushed during the incubation period. Since the female Eagle only lays two or at the most three eggs during a nesting season, this greatly diminished the population in a matter of just a few years.

Another factor that lead to their decline was the mistaken notion that Bald Eagles would steal farm animals - Chickens, pigs, baby lambs, etc. and even infants - for food. This lead to wholesale hunting of the bird in some areas of the country. In truth, the Bald Eagle is a fish eater with a taste for carrion. It will also capture sick or crippled waterfowl when it can.

The eagle has also gained a reputation as a pirate of the rivers and lakes as he will steal fish from smaller birds such as osprey and crows, but this is a rarity rather than the rule.

The day these particular pictures were takes was a brisk day in late January. I had never been this close to the birds before and it was a bit unnerving when he, or possible she, turned that intelligent, piercing eye on me, cocked her/his head to one side and sized me up. I'm truly not sure if I passed the test or not. Probably not!

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