Bald Eagle

STATUSNear Threatened

COMMON NAME (SCIENTIFIC NAME)Haliaeetus leucocephalus

DIETBald eagles are opportunistic foragers, however, they prefer fish as their primary prey. They also may hunt birds, small mammals, and even young deer.

RANGEThroughout North America

HABITATBald eagles are almost always found near water—on lakes, sounds, or seas. Most live in tundra and forest habitat in Alaska and Canada, but others live in Florida’s mangrove swamps and a few pairs in northern Mexico’s desert regions.

Bald Eagle

About: The adult bald eagle has a white head and tail with a dark brown body and wings. They have an 8 foot wingspread. Their bills are bright yellow with a sharp hook. Legs are also bright yellow with powerful black talons and rough scales for holding on to fish. Young birds have a brown head until attaining adult coloring at about five years of age!

The bald eagle population drastically declined from the late 1800’s to the late 1900’s. Many were killed for sport, but the biggest impact may have come from powerful pesticides used in the farming industry. These pesticides caused high chick mortality, and the eagle population plummeted, earning it a spot of the USA Endangered Species List. Due to the regulation of pesticides and the protection afforded by the ESA, the bald eagle has reached stable numbers and was delisted from the ESA in 2007.

All bald eagles are under the supervision of the USFWS. The zoo’s resident eagle came to the zoo after he was rehabbed for being hit by a car, and can no longer fly. The zoo collects all naturally fallen feathers and sends them to the USFWS!

Predators: Adult eagles are at the apex of the food chain and have no natural predators. Nestlings and eggs are at risk from gulls, crows, hawks, owls, other eagles, bobcats, black bears, and raccoons.

Life Cycle/ Social Structure Bald eagles mate for life and reinforce their pair bond through spectacular flight displays that involve midair courtship dances. In winter, bald eagles sometimes collect in large groups close to fish-packed bodies of water. Bald eagles become territorial during breeding season and may aggressively defend nesting sites by grappling in midair. Their territories vary greatly by geographic location and home ranges appear to overlap. Suitable roosting sites are usually large trees near water and ideal sites are selected for their height, diameter and protection from inclement weather and predators. Timing of reproductive activity differs by climate and latitude, but usually occurs between October and May. Nest sites are returned to and expanded each year. Nests may grow as long as 9 feet wide and 15 feet deep!

How you can help: One way to help eagles and other birds is to recycle paper! Trees are needed for all wildlife to thrive, and eagles need large old trees to build sturdy nests! You can help us bring birds of prey back from the brink by supporting the Lehigh Valley Zoo.

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