Bald Eagle
Haliaeetus leucocephalus

CLASS: Aves
ORDER: Falconiformes
FAMILY: Cathartidae

SIZE:
Length 27 - 30 inches; wind spread 6.5 - 8 feet

RANGE:
Alaska, Florida, some remain in Arizona, Montana, Colorado and Wyoming

HABITAT:
High cliffs, trees near lakes, rivers, streams, and seas.

DIET:
Wild - Fish, meat, carrion
Zoo - Bird of prey diet, mice, fish

FACTS:

  • Vision -- binocular, very keen eyesight. Able to see a rabbit a mile away while fying high on air currents.
  • Hearing -- keen and excellent, ranks next to sight in importance to birds survival. The feathers next to the ear opening are adapted to minimize turbulence in flight and by this protects the hearing organ itself.
  • Wings -- very powerful, wings are flat when gliding or soaring. For their size, eagles are the most powerful birds in the world. Can fly upside down an carry up to 10 lbs. in the air. Can fly up to 40 miles per hour and can dive at speeds of 100 miles per hour.
  • Pound for pound, and eagle's wing is stronger than an airplane wing. Flight muscles are so important that they account for approximately half its weight.
  • Talons -- strong, sharp, able to pick up fish, rabbits, and other small mammals in flight or on land.
  • Strong curve beak for ripping food apart.
  • Mate for life using the same nest every year; both parents incubate eggs and feed young.
  • White feathers appear on head at 3 - 5 years of age.
  • An eagle has 7,000 feathers. Can go three days without eating.

COMMENTS:

  • Bald means white not bare.
  • The bald eagle became the emblem of the United States in 1782 and is protected by Federal Law. The body must be returned to the government upon its death. Feathers are given to various Indian tribes for their ceremonies.
  • Our eagle is considered non-releasable and probably would not survive in the wild on its own due to injuries sustained when it was shot in the wild, prior ro its being added to our zoo collection.

YOUNG:
Lay one to three eggs which take about 35 days to hatch. Young leave the nest at 10 - 11 weeks. Nest weighs 4,000 lbs!

STATUS:
Was once endangered due to man, habitat destruction, hunting, pollution, insecticides. Removed from the Endangered Species List in July 2000.

DDT -- Pesticide, DDT pushed the bald eagle to the brink of extinction. The DDT entered the food chain when run-off washed into lakes and streams. Fish were poisoned, as were the eagles that ate them. The eagles did not die, but produced eggs with particularly thin shells and the embryos did not survive. Other eggs were infertile. DDT was banned in 1972 and eagles are now protected by some of the strongest conservation laws on the books.