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Bald Eagle

American eagle
American eagle flying. Image by OpenRangeStock via Depositphotos

Have you ever wondered what makes the bald eagle so iconic? Why are they considered a symbol of strength and freedom in America? Read further to find out!

When I first heard the name bald eagle, I pictured an eagle with a bald head! This is not the case. The word “bald” came from an old English word, “balde,” meaning white. Now that I know this, I picture a beautiful (white) eagle soaring the skies of America, inspiring people with its strength and freedom. 

Close-up of a bald eagle. Image by Ralfgeorg Feltes via Pexels.

Some Quick “Animal” Facts

Scientific NameHaliaeetus leucocephalus
ClassAves (Birds)
Population Size316 700 individuals
Conservation StatusLeast Concern (population increasing

Bald Eagle Overview

Eagle. Image by G.C. via Pixabay

Where do they live?

The bald eagle is native to North America. Its increasing population extends from Alaska to northern Mexico. Bald eagles are often found near large bodies of water. Those inhabiting the northern parts of America often migrate further south in search of open bodies of water. Bald eagles that inhabit regions that do not get as cold often remain year-round residents. 

What do they eat?

Their primary source of sustenance is fish. As mentioned above, they remain around large bodies of water, especially those they know hold fish. They rely mainly on fish; however, they are also opportunistic feeders. However, they have been seen eating other birds, mammals, and even carrion. They are well-adapted to their fishing lifestyle. With keen eyesight, they can spot their prey from great distances. They swoop in, flying low to the water’s surface before snatching the fish with their talons. 

How do they reproduce?

Bald eagles are monogamous. They form strong bonds with only one individual, lasting years or even entire lifetimes. In the wild, they live between 20 and 30 years. They perform beautiful courtship displays (often described as ‘the courtship cartwheel’) to solidify their bond. During the courtship cartwheel, they clasp talons and begin spiraling through the air in a cartwheel motion. They release their grip moments before reaching the ground and smoothly glide away. After that, their bond is solidified. 

Social behavior/structure

Bald eagles occupy a territory, usually with their partner, centered around their nesting and feeding area. However, in areas where food is abundant, they do congregate. Congregations have a feeding hierarchy, where larger, more dominant eagles feed first, while younger, less dominant individuals wait their turn. 

Bald Eagle News

Why is the Bald Eagle the national symbol of the United States?

Since June 20, 1782, the Bald Eagle has been chosen as the national bird of the United States. This animal has since been an emblem of the country’s values and ideals. The United States prides itself on being one of the most powerful and free countries in the world. The bald eagle is one of the most powerful birds of prey. They are fierce and capable predators, making them one of the most majestic birds to see. 

Close your eyes and think of a bald eagle soaring gracefully through the mountains. Do you feel a sense of freedom when you think of this? I certainly do. 

Bald Eagle Pictures

Animal History & Cultural Importance

Bald eagles were abundant in North America in pre-colonial and early colonial times. They are a common sight along the coast and near lakes and rivers. After that, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, populations declined due to hunting, habitat destruction, and the collection of eggs and birds. After that, a more significant population decline occurred in the 20th century using DDT pesticides. The pesticides weakened eggshells and reduced bald eagle hatch rates. The banning of DDT in the United States and habitat protection has since facilitated the recovery of the Bald Eagle population. 

Many Native Americans believe that this bird is sacred. Its feathers and body parts have been used in ceremonies and rituals. 

Bald Eagle FAQ

How large is a bald eagle’s wingspan? 

A bald eagle’s wingspan ranges from 6 to 7.5 feet. 

How long do bald eagles live? 

In the wild bald eagles live for between 20-30 years. In captivity, they can live for up to 48 years!

What role do Bald Eagles play in their ecosystems?

Bald eagles are apex predators. They have an essential role in the ecosystem in top-down control. Top-down control refers to the influence predation has on the community structure. Removing apex predators could have drastic implications on the lower trophic levels.

YouTube video
“Eagles Spiral Courtship”, Source: “YouTube”, Uploaded: “Wildhood Book”

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