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Bald Eagle

Haliaeetus leucocephalus Order FALCONIFORMES - Family ACCIPITRIDAE - Subfamily Accipitrinae
Summary Detailed
For complete Life History Information on this species, visit Birds of North America Online.

Bald Eagle, adult
Bald Eagle, adult, Cape Coral, FL
About the photographs
Bald Eagle, adult in flight
Bald Eagle, adult in flight, Yellowstone NP, WY

Bald Eagle, 	juvenile
Bald Eagle, juvenile

Bald Eagle, immatures
Bald Eagle, immatures, Cape Coral, FL

Bald Eagle, first-year in flight
Bald Eagle, first-year in flight, Cape Coral, FL
  1. Cool Facts
  2. Description
  3. Similar Species
  4. Sound
  5. Range
  6. Habitat
  7. Food
  8. Behavior
  9. Reproduction
  10. Conservation Status
  11. Other Names

The national emblem of the United States, the Bald Eagle was threatened with extinction in the lower 48 states because of DDT (a type of pesticide) poisoning. Protection under the Endangered Species Act, together with reintroduction programs, brought populations up, and the species was reclassified as Threatened in 1995. By 1999, some were suggesting removing the eagle from the Endangered Species List.

Cool Facts

  • Humans are the most important source of mortality for this threatened species.

  • The Bald Eagle isn't bald. The use of "bald" in its name is actually a shortening of the word "piebald," which describes something that is spotted or patchy, especially in black and white. Because the Bald Eagle has a dark brown body and a white head and tail, piebald is an apt description.

  • Bald Eagles occasionally hunt cooperatively, with one individual flushing prey towards another.

  • The immature Bald Eagle has a prolonged period of exploration lasting for four years. Some young from Florida have wandered north to Michigan, and birds from California have reached Alaska.


  • Size: 71-96 cm (28-38 in)
  • Wingspan: 204 cm (80 in)
  • Weight: 3000-6300 g (105.9-222.39 ounces)

  • Very large raptor.
  • Adults unmistakable with brown body and white head and tail.
  • Bill large and hooked.
  • Long broad wings held flat while soaring.

  • Adult with body evenly dark brown.
  • Head white.
  • Tail white.
  • Long hooked bill yellow, cere yellow.
  • Eyes yellow.
  • Tail moderately long, slightly wedge-shaped.
  • Feet yellow.
  • Legs yellow and unfeathered.
  • Immatures variably dark with white scattered throughout plumage.

Sex Differences

Sexes alike in plumage, female larger.


Immature variably patterned with dark brown and white; takes five years to acquire full adult plumage. White not restricted to well defined areas, but appearing scattered throughout body, usually with brown mottling in same area. White in wings primarily in linings and not flight feathers. Bill and cere blackish gray. Eyes dark brown. Feet and lower legs yellow.

Similar Species

  • Golden Eagle has feathered legs, white limited to flight feathers, and soars with the outer part of the wings lifted in a slight dihedral.


Call high-pitched whistling or piping.

»listen to songs of this species


Range Map

© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Summer Range

Breeds near water from Alaska throughout Canada and in scattered localities in nearly all of the United States. Also a small number in Mexico.

Winter Range

Winters in coastal Alaska and Canada, and throughout lower 48 states.


  • Breeds in forested areas near large bodies of water.
  • Winters in coastal areas, along large rivers, and large unfrozen lakes.


Opportunistic feeder, but prefers fish. Eats large birds, mammals, and carrion.



Gets food by direct capture, scavenging, and stealing prey from other eagles or other birds and mammals. Will wade in water to catch fish.


Engages in spectacular flight displays. In the Cartwheel Display, a courting pair flies to high altitude, locks feet together, and then tumbles and cartwheels toward the ground, breaking off at the last moment.


Nest Type

Large nest of sticks. Lined with finer woody materials. Reused over many years. Placed in large tree, often the largest in the area. Rarely nests on ground or cliff.

Egg Description

Dull white, usually without markings.

Clutch Size

Usually 2 eggs. Range: 1-3.

Condition at Hatching

Capable of limited motion. Covered with light gray down and with eyes open.

Conservation Status

Preservation efforts brought populations in the lower 48 states back from near exinction in the mid-20th century. Although the Bald Eagle was proposed for removal from the Endangered species List in 1999, populations in the lower 48 states remain relatively low. Humans are the most important source of mortality.

Other Names

Pygargue à tête blanche (French)
Águila cabeza blanca (Spanish)

Sources used to construct this page:

Buehler, D. A. 2000. Bald Eagle (Halieaeetus leucocephalus). In The Birds of North America, No. 564 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.

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