The incredibly majestic Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, is technically classified as a sea eagle and is the only one native to North America.
There are also two known subspecies of Bald Eagle. Despite the famous name, they are not actually bald. The name is derived from an older term which meant white-headed.
The Bald Eagle holds the distinction of building both the largest nest of any bird in North America and the largest arboreal nests of any known animal. These nests may be as much as 13 ft (4 m) deep, 8.2 ft (2.5 m) wide, and weigh up to 2,000 lb (907 kg).
Bald Eagle Physical Description
Like many avian species, the Bald Eagle displays sexual dimorphism. In their case, it is a matter of size. The females are approximately 25% larger than the males, on average, and may weigh as much as 14 lb (6.3 kg). Exceptional females may even attain a wingspan of 7.5 ft (2.3 m).
The plumage is a distinctive combination of dark brown on the body, and white on the head and tail. Their eyes, beak, and feet are a bright yellow in color. The talons are large and razor-sharp, as with most raptors.
The Bald Eagle also possesses the ability to retract their talons at will, but rarely chooses to do so.
This bird can live up to 20 years in the wild.
Bald Eagle Range and Habitat
The range of the Haliaeetus leucocephalus is thankfully extensive. They inhabit most of North America, from northern Mexico, all of the continental United States (as well as temperate portions of Alaska), and most of Canada.
They are luckily highly adaptable to a variety of habitat types and may live in bayous, deciduous forests, and even the Sonoran Desert.
The Bald Eagle generally prefers to build their large nests in the tops of the tallest trees near a body of water.
This majestic species was once nearly extinct. However, conservation efforts have, for once, seen a large resurgence in their number in the past few decades. The IUCN now lists them as a species of Least Concern.
Bald Eagle Behavior, Diet, and Ecology
The Bald Eagle is not surprisingly a powerful flier that can attain speeds of up to 43 mph (70 km/h) while gliding. Despite their size, their speed in a dive can reach even 100 mph (160 km/h).
In some portions of their range, they may be partly migratory.
The Haliaeetus leucocephalus is an opportunistic carnivore, feeding on virtually any prey available. They will also feed on carrion when available and will also attack prey larger than themselves if need be, though they prefer to stick to smaller prey. Throughout their native range, however, the bulk of their diet consists of a variety of fish species.
Scientists believe that they mate for life, following elaborate courtship rituals. The mated pair are typically highly territorial by nature.