The bald eagle is a large bird of prey known for its white head (as an adult). It can be found around many areas in the US, but can be commonly seen around the area of the Salish Sea.
Bald Eagle Facts
Scientific Name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Growth and Plumage
Like other birds, bald eagles’ plumage changes. Though they likely molt seasonally, we don’t see the dramatic seasonal changes we see with some birds. However, the bald eagle’s plumage changes dramatically as the eagle matures (with its characteristic white head expressing itself somewhere around 5 years of age).
Did you know?
Bald eagles have a third eyelid.
I didn’t realize this until I was looking at photos I’d taken of some bald eagles and in some of the photos, their eyes appeared as though a membrane was covering them. And so it was!
The regular eyelids on the eagle are on the top and bottom, and they blink upward.
But this third membrane, called the nictating membrane, This third, semi-transparent, “eyelid” sweeps across the eye and helps to keep their eyes clean and moist.
Apparently, this isn’t unique to eagles — all birds have them but they are easier to see on larger birds of prey. They may serve a protective function as well as raptors close them when catching prey.
Bald Eagle Photos
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The bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is a bird of prey found in North America. A sea eagle, it has two known subspecies and forms a species pair with the white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), which occupies the same niche as the bald eagle in the Palearctic. Its range includes most of Canada and Alaska, all of the contiguous United States, and northern Mexico. It is found near large bodies of open water with an abundant food supply and old-growth trees for nesting.
Temporal range: Pleistocene-Recent
|Bald eagle preparing to fly at Kachemak Bay, Alaska, United States|
|A recording of a bald eagle at Yellowstone National Park|
|Bald eagle range|
Breeding summer visitor
Star: accidental records On migration only
The bald eagle is an opportunistic feeder which subsists mainly on fish, which it swoops down upon and snatches from the water with its talons. It builds the largest nest of any North American bird and the largest tree nests ever recorded for any animal species, up to 4 m (13 ft) deep, 2.5 m (8.2 ft) wide, and 1 metric ton (1.1 short tons) in weight. Sexual maturity is attained at the age of four to five years.
Bald eagles are not actually bald; the name derives from an older meaning of the word, "white headed". The adult is mainly brown with a white head and tail. The sexes are identical in plumage, but females are about 25 percent larger than males. The yellow beak is large and hooked. The plumage of the immature is brown.
The bald eagle is the national bird of the United States of America and appears on its seal. In the late 20th century it was on the brink of extirpation in the contiguous United States. Populations have since recovered, and the species was removed from the U.S. government's list of endangered species on July 12, 1995, and transferred to the list of threatened species. It was removed from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in the contiguous states on June 28, 2007.