On June 20, 1782, the bald eagle was chosen to be the emblem for the United States’ official seal. These birds aren’t really bald, as they have white feathers on top of their heads. We call them that because of the Old English word “balde,” which meant white.
The bald eagle is native to the United States of America. It lives about 28 years in the wild. Its body is between 34 to 43 inches long and the wings stretch out six to eight feet. It can weigh between six and 14 pounds.
Bald eagles can hunt from the air, and they usually catch food by diving for fish in water. They often sit on a high perch and look down for prey. If they find something, they swoop down and grab it with their talons. Bald eagles also hunt on the land if they have to. They prefer fish, but they’ll eat just about any animal they can find, from ducks and rabbits to crabs and turtles.
It became illegal to hunt bald eagles in the 1970s. Before that, they had almost gone extinct. Between hunting, habitat destruction, and the toxic pesticides we use, humans nearly killed all of the bald eagles. Thankfully, the laws to protect them worked and the population is growing again.
The Bald Eagle’s Life
Scientists think that bald eagles pick one mate and stay together for life. The male and female work together to build a big nest, then add to that nest from year to year, making it even bigger. There are usually two eggs a year. Both parents take turns caring for the eggs and the chicks once they’ve hatched. The eagles feed the babies first by tearing up food and dropping it into their mouths. By the time the chicks are a month old, they can peck at food dropped in the nest.
The young test their wings with their first flight at around 10 to 12 weeks old. They are known to travel great distances: California birds have been found in Alaska and Florida eagles are sometimes seen as far as Michigan.