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Facts About Bald Eagles - February 5, 2024
Facts About Bald Eagles - February 5, 2024

In this weeks Blog post I thought I’d share some interesting facts about Bald Eagles that I hope you’ll find interesting.

 

As I’m sure you’re aware, the Bald Eagle is symbol of our country representing strength and freedom.  Originally, Benjamin Franklin was not in favor of having the Bald Eagle be a symbol of the US.  He wanted the Wild Turkey to be the symbol.  He felt that Bald Eagle was a a Bird of bad moral Character.  He was quoted as saying, 'He does not get his Living honestly…[he] is too lazy to fish for himself. '

It is true that bald eagles are lazy when it comes to hunting for fish.  It takes them less effort to steal a fish from another eagle than to get their own.  After one eagle grabs a fish, you’ll often see one or more eagles chase after the first in the hopes of stealing their fish.  These mid-air fights for a fish are my absolute favorite to capture and also the most difficult to get!

A mid-air battle is on for a hunk of smelly old fish

In the mid 1800’s it was estimated that there were over 400,000 Bale Eagles in the United States.  However, by the 1950’s this number had shrunk to only 412 breeding pairs in the lower 48.  This was caused by the introduction of the pesticide DDT into the environment which caused the shells of  eggs to soften and not being able to hatch.

In 1967 Bald Eagles were placed on the Federal Endangered Species list and in 1972 DDT was banned  and the eagle population began a slow climb.

Today there are over 300,000 Bald Eagles in the lower 48 and there are estimated to be an additional 30,000 in Alaska.

In my home state of New Jersey, their numbers hand dwindled to a  single nesting pair in 1970.  Today, they are thriving and there are 286 nesting pairs in New Jersey and their numbers continue to grow!

Adult Bald eagles average 28-38 inches in height and have a wing span of up to 8 feet.  The female is generally 25% larger than the male.

You can clearly see the size differnce.  The male is on the left, the female on the right

After hatching, Eagles grow very rapidly and generally fledge their nest at around 12 weeks of age.  About 7-10 days before they fledge, they will begin to exercise their wings and legs, taking short flights to branches in the nest tree.

A pair of fledglings.  My guess is that they are about 8 weeks old

They may hang around the nest for another month or two ‘learning from their parents’ and honing their flying and feeding skills.  

Eagles do not get their distinctive white heads until they reach full maturity which occurs at age 5.  

A chart showing the different age characteristics of a Bald Eagle

 

Eagles mate for life and chose a partner around 5 years of age.

During courtship, bald eagles may engage in a behavior known as "sky dancing," in which they soar high in the air and perform acrobatic feats, such as dives, rolls, and flips. These displays are thought to be used to attract a mate and establish dominance

Eagles do not fly south for the winter as other birds do.  As long as they are able to find ample food, they will stay in their home area.  Their food of choice is fish, so as long as rivers, streams and lakes remain unfrozen, they will typically stay put.  

Once the water freezes, they will move south in search of open water and a new source of food.

This was the phenomena that occurred in my area in mid-January this year.    As the lakes and rivers north of me froze over, a large number of eagles moved into my area where open water and food was readily available.  This only lasted for 3 days before the local water also froze over.  However, during that time, I saw large numbers of eagles in my area.  You can read more about it in my Blog Posting from last week.  Here's the link

 

As long as an eagle has access to 'open water' they will remain in a given area

 

Eagles diet is predominantly fish though they will eat waterfowl, small animals, snakes and carrion

4 year old eagle after grabbing a fish


I hope you enjoyed this blog and found some of this information interesting.  If you have any questions, feel free to drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you.

 

Until next time...

 

 

 

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