The "Bald" and the beautiful....

American Bald Eagle - Eagle Heights, Wildlife Park, Kent, England - Sunday September 28th 2008.

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ~ The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is a bird of prey found in North America that is most recognizable as the national bird and symbol of the United States of America. This sea eagle has two known sub-species and forms a species pair with the White-tailed Eagle. Its range includes most of Canada and Alaska, all of the contiguous United States and northern Mexico. It is found near large bodies of open water with an abundant food supply and old-growth trees for nesting.

 

The Bald Eagle is a large bird, with a body length of 71–106 centimeters (28–42 in), a wingspan of 168–244 centimeters (66–96 in), and a mass of 3–7 kilograms (6.6–15.5 lb); females are about 25 percent larger than males. The adult Bald Eagle has a brown body with a white head and tail, and bright yellow irises, taloned feet, and a hooked beak; juveniles are completely brown except for the yellow feet. Males and females are identical in plumage coloration. Its diet consists mainly of fish, but it is an opportunistic feeder. It hunts fish by swooping down and snatching the fish out of the water with its talons. It is sexually mature at four years or five years of age. In the wild, Bald Eagles can live up to thirty years, and often survive longer in captivity. The Bald Eagle builds the largest nest of any North American bird, up to 4 meters (13 ft) deep, 2.5 meters (8 ft) wide, and one tonne (1.1 tons) in weight.

 

The species was on the brink of extirpation in the continental United States (while flourishing in much of Alaska and Canada) late in the 20th century, but now has a stable population and has been officially removed from the U.S. federal government's list of endangered species. The Bald Eagle was officially reclassified from "Endangered" to "Threatened" on July 12, 1995 by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. On July 6, 1999, a proposal was initiated "To Remove the Bald Eagle in the Lower 48 States From the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife." It was delisted on June 28, 2007.

 

Description ~ The Bald Eagle is a large fierce looking bird. It's name in Latin means "the sea eagle with a white head". It is the national symbol of the United States of America. Benjamin Franklin had suggested that the national symbol be the Wild Turkey, because the Bald Eagle was "a bird of bad moral character", but he was outvoted. Today it is seen on many things in the United States, such as money, seals, and other patriotic symbols.

 

The Bald Eagle generally lives forty-five to fifty years in captivity and twenty-five years in the wild. It is one of the largest flying birds seen in the United States. It stands between 30.4 and 36.4 inches tall, or about as high as an average office desk. It has a five and a half to eight foot wing span. That's about as long as a big dining room table. The head of the bird is white, the body of the bird is black, and the tail is white. The feet are a dull orange and its beak is yellow.

 

Like many raptors it has an unusual trait that is called "reversed sexual dimorphism". This means that the female Bald Eagle is generally bigger than the male. In most species, the male is larger than the female.

This raptor is covered in large coarse feathers. The name "Bald Eagle" doesn't mean the bird is really bald. From a distance, it appears bald because of the contrast of the light and dark feathers. To the early settlers in the United States, the word bald meant white, not hairless. Because of its appearance, its name came to be the Bald Eagle. It doesn't get its amazing colors until four to five years of age. Before that, the immature Bald Eagle appears to have a brown head and tail with a yellow beak. The Bald Eagle has a body that is midway between sleek and bulky.

The Bald Eagle's wing span can reach eight feet. The Bald Eagle reaches maturity between four and six years of age. It chooses one mate for its whole life. The climate it lives in affects its reproduction. The Bald Eagle tends to breed during the winter in the south, and during the spring in the north. It raises its family in large nests that are usually built near water. It may nest by itself or in an area where many other Bald Eagles live also. This bird of prey usually nests in tall live pine trees that are higher than the things that surround them. Occasionally the Bald Eagle may build its nest on the ground if there is nothing nearby to endanger them. The female eagle usually builds most of the nests. They are obsessed with working on their nests. The nests are made of natural materials such as sticks, mud and pieces of grass and can weigh up to one ton. The nests are sometimes larger than six feet in width. There was one eagle nest found in Ohio that was 9 _ feet wide, 20 feet deep, and weighed more than two tons. Unfortunately, the nest was destroyed when the tree it was built in fell to the ground in 1925. Nests are often used year after year. Some nests are built so well that they last for ten to twenty years even though they are unprotected from the weather.

 

The Bald Eagle is a raptor and that means it is a bird of prey. They like to sit on a high perch near water to make it easier to spot their prey. Their diet is made up of mainly fish, but also includes small sea birds, mammals, and reptiles (mostly turtles). When Bald Eagles catch a large animal, they rip pieces off of it and eat it bite by bite. When they catch a small animal they swallow it whole. After they swallow it they make themselves throw up all the bones, feathers, and hair that they cannot digest. Surprisingly enough, in cold winter months, dead animals become part of this predator's diet when there is not enough prey. They often steal food from other raptors, particularly Osprey, while in flight. They grab the prey right out of the other birds talons and fly away with it. Although a great predator from the air, this specific bird has been seen wading into streams in northern states and provinces, to reach a struggling fish when the rapids are running too fast for the bird to see in.

 

The Bald Eagle is an amazing predator. Because of this, it is an environment helper. It helps the environment by eating a variety fish and other animals. This is good for the environment because it eats from a variety of different animals. Like the Osprey, the Bald Eagle returns each year to its nest. It would be unable to do this if it were to over hunt the prey in its area.

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Taken on September 28, 2008
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