Monday, July 4, 2011

Bald Eagle

Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Well, it's the Fourth of July, so why not talk about the national bird of the United States? The Bald Eagle is a large fish eagle that can be found throughout North America. They typically live near lakes, rivers, and oceans, as fish makes up a large part of their diet. Some Bald Eagles will migrate, especially if their chosen body of water freezes over in the winter months.

Bald Eagles are powerful predators, and can catch and carry prey that weighs as much as, and sometimes more than, they do. They are also prolific scavengers and thieves, and will steal prey away from other birds. They are one of the largest raptor species on the continent, and females are slightly larger than the males.

It is believed that Bald Eagles form lifetime pair bonds, though repeated unsuccessful breeding attempts can cause a pair to split up. Bald Eagles built the largest nests in North America. They are frequently over 6.5ft (2m) wide, and can weigh hundreds of pounds. The pair will use this nest year after year, adding on to it over time.

Juvenile in Flight
Two eggs are typically laid at a time, and are incubated primarily by the female while the male continues to hunt. Chicks grow quickly and fly within three months. Juvenile Bald Eagles are fully brown in color, and will not obtain their characteristic white head until they are 4-5 years old.

Bald Eagles were once an incredibly threatened species. Pesticides like DDT caused serious harm to the birds, including infertility and thin egg shells. Protection for the species and the banning of DDT in 1972 has allowed Bald Eagles to rebound successfully. They are no longer listed by the United States Endangered Species list, and are ranked at Least Concern by the IUCN.

IUCN Status :  Least Concern
Location : North America
Size : Body length up to 40in (102cm), Wingspan up to 8ft (2.4m)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Accipitriformes
Family : Accipitridae -- Genus : Haliaeetus - Species: H. leucocephalus

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