For those of you from the U.S., where it’s difficult to escape from the symbol of your national bird and animal, the bald eagle needs little introduction. Majestic and exuding serene confidence, it’s among the most beautiful members of the eagle family.
Found in most of Canada, Alaska, the lower 48 states and northern Mexico, Haliaeetus leucocephalus is usually seen near large bodies of water and nests in old-growth trees. Among North American birds, its dwellings are the largest; Wikipedia reports that one was measured at 2.5m (8.2ft) wide, 4m (13ft) deep, weighing one metric ton while National Geographic mentions a next that tipped the scales at more than two tons. They tend to mate for life so I guess a larger more permanent dwelling makes sense.
They’re not really bald; that name comes from the white plumage on its head, which is identical in males in females. The latter is usually 25 percent larger.
It’s body size ranges from 86 to 109cm (34 to 43in); wingspan, 1.8 to 2.4m 6 to8ft), and 3 to 6.5kg (6.5 to 14lbs) in weight.
On the brink of extinction in the continental U.S., it’s made a strong comeback, thanks largely to restrictions on DDT use. From National Geographic:
For many decades, bald eagles were hunted for sport and for the “protection” of fishing grounds. Pesticides like DDT also wreaked havoc on eagles and other birds. These chemicals collect in fish, which make up most of the eagle’s diet. They weaken the bird’s eggshells and severely limited their ability to reproduce. Since DDT use was heavily restricted in 1972, eagle numbers have rebounded significantly and have been aided by reintroduction programs. The result is a wildlife success story—the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has upgraded the birds from endangered to threatened.
Impact of Climate change? Audubon projects:
[.. the bald eagle] is projected to have only 26 percent of its current summer range remaining by 2080, according to Audubon’s climate model. However, it could potentially recover 73 percent of summer range in new areas opened up by a shifting climate. Its success isn’t guaranteed in the new areas—the majestic raptor will still have to find suitable food and nesting habitat.
- Bald Eagle status update from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species
- Bald Eagle at National Geographic
- Bald Eagle at Avibase
- Bald Eagle in the Audobon Field Guide
- Bald eagle on Wikipedia
These initial images were taken at the Parque Cóndor, a rescue and release bird park and sanctuary near Otavalo, Ecuador.[divider type="white"]
All images © Bob Ramsak 2015. All rights reserved. High resolution images available.
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