Bald Eagle Facts

May 11, 2023 // 13 minutes read

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10 Epic Facts About Bald Eagles
10 Fascinating Facts About Bald Eagles That You Didn’t Know

The bald eagle is truly an iconic bird. It’s found in North America, and it’s truly a unique and fascinating avian creature. Learn ten fascinating facts about these eagles that you never knew before.

Bald eagles aren’t bald. They’re the most recognized bird in North America. They’re culturally significant to the US. They’re opportunistic hunters and mate for life. They’re featured in art and literature. There are famous ones, they’re part of the most successful American conservation story.

And that’s only scratching the surface!

Today, I’d like to tell you about 10 fascinating facts about bald eagles that you likely haven’t heard before. The fax that I’ll share with you below includes the following:

  1. Bald eagles are the most successful conservation story in American history
  2. Bald eagles are the most recognized birds in the US and have distinctive physical characteristics
  3. Bald eagles are opportunistic hunters but mostly feed on fish
  4. Bald eagles are monogamous creatures that mate for life
  5. Bald eagles exhibit a number of interesting behavioral traits
  6. Bald eagles fly at incredibly fast speeds 
  7. Bald eagles have symbolic and cultural significance in the US and other parts of the world
  8. Bald eagles: myths and misconceptions
  9. Bald eagles are well-represented in art and literature
  10. Iconic and famous bald eagles

Are you ready to learn these interesting and fascinating facts about bald eagles? Keep reading below to discover the truth and so much more.

1. Bald Eagles Are the Most Successful Conservation Story in American History

bald eagle with open beak
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Image by Winkelmann from Pixabay

This winged representative of excellence is an important symbol in the United States of America. At one point, this amazing creature was nearly facing the brink of extinction. During the 19th century, it was regularly hunted for sport, and its feathers were highly sought after and used fashionably for clothing. This caused the population to decline severely.

Combine this with the use of DDT and other pesticides, which led to even further decreases in bald Eagle populations. The DDT harmed reproduction by weakening their eggshells, which resulted in much lower success rates during hatching.

The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act was instituted in 1940 in an effort to save these majestic birds. Within this act, it became illegal to possess, hunt, and kill them and golden eagles. Nevertheless, the population of these eagles still declined. It got so bad that by 1963, only 417 existing nesting pairs were still left in the United States and other parts of North America, where they enjoy nesting in tall trees.

By 1967, this incredible bird was added to the endangered species list as part of the Endangered Species Preservation Act. This act was replaced in 1973 with the Endangered Species Act. It changed the laws by giving greater and additional protection to them and their habitats. Plus, it provided extra funding to boost conservation efforts.

The biggest boon to their conservation efforts was removing DDT from our environment. Conservation efforts also spearheaded public education campaigns, captive breeding season programs, and habitat protection and restoration.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service partnered with state agencies, private citizens, and non-governmental organizations to work together to conserve their population while working diligently to help it recover.

Their efforts were not in vain since this agile avian is considered America’s greatest conservation success story. In fact, Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve in Alaska is currently home to up to 4000 eagles, who gather here each year to nosh on tasty salmon.

What Do Eagles Eat?

Check out the impressive hunting techniques that eagles use to catch their prey. Click the button below!

2. Bald Eagles Are the Most Recognized Birds in the US and Have Distinctive Physical Characteristics

As one of the most recognized birds in the US and around the world, it isn’t surprising to learn that this avian creature has distinctive physical characteristics. These characteristics set them apart from many different birds. They include:

  • Their wingspan reaches 7 feet long from wingtip to wingtip, which makes the bald Eagle one of the biggest birds in all of North America
  • Their talons are curved and sharp, plus they have powerful beaks that make it very easy to catch and kill fish and other desired prey
  • Their white head and tail are very distinctive, plus their wings and body are covered by recognizable dark-mottled brown feathers
  • Female bald eagles are slightly larger than males and can weigh as much as 14 pounds
  • Their eyesight is very sharp, with 4-8 times the visible acuity of human beings

Out of all of the fascinating physical characteristics of these birds, their greatest feat is the ability to soar through the air for many miles without the need to flap their wings. They gain altitude by using thermal currents, which propel them forward and allow them to glide for many miles without expending too much energy.

3. Bald Eagles Are Opportunistic Hunters but Mostly Feed on Fish

Although they are carnivorous predators and love to feed on North American and United States fish, they are also opportunistic hunters that hunt and eat reptiles, birds, and small mammals as well. Their usual hunting ground is near and around bodies of water, including lakes, rivers, and coastlines, which give them ample opportunities to catch plenty of fish.

According to the National Wildlife Federation,

Bald eagles love fish. These birds are opportunistic predators, and when fish aren’t available, they’ll eat whatever they can catch, including small birds and rodents. Bald eagles are also scavengers that will feed on carrion. If they see an opportunity, bald eagles may even steal food from other birds such as osprey.

Bald eagles’ diets vary tremendously depending on their habitat and the availability of prey at the time. When they spend time in areas with abundant fish, they will become their primary food source. While spending time in other areas not directly near the water, they will hunt snakes, squirrels, and rabbits.

As opportunistic hunters, these birds love to scavenge for food whenever it’s necessary. Even more interesting, they have no problem stealing food directly out of the talons of other birds. They will sneak up on hawks and osprey and literally snatch their food directly from their clutches. These opportunistic hunters will also feed on mammals, birds, dead fish, and carrion when the need arises.

They never have a tough time hunting because they have very sharp talons and strong beaks that they use to catch their prey. Even more importantly, these birds can dive incredibly fast at speeds of up to 100 mph. This makes it easier than ever to scoop up mammals from the ground or fish from the ocean or sea.

Bald Eagle Physical CharacteristicsDetails
WingspanUp to 7 feet
WeightUp to 14 pounds
Colorationwhite tail and head, dark brown wings and body
Eyesight4-8 times better visual acuity than humans

4. Bald Eagles Are (Mostly) Monogamous Creatures That Mate for Life

The beautiful thing about bald eagles is that they are mostly monogamous birds, which means they find a partner that they will hopefully mate with for life. They also have very elaborate courtship displays and rituals that are critical to their bonding process.

Here’s a quick look at typical courtship displays and behaviors of these winged creatures:

  1. Talon Grappling: both eagles will fly next to one another, clap their talons together, and then begin tumbling through the air. Other names for this practice are called whirling and cartwheeling.
  2. Sky Dance: eagles perform their sky dance by flying very high up in the air, whereupon they will lock their talons and begin falling toward the ground. Right before hitting the ground, the eagles will break apart and then fly back up into the air and repeat the ritual all over again.
  3. Food Sharing: sharing food is important during the process of courting, in which the birds will bring each other food to show their affection for one another. Other names for this practice are called mate-feeding and courtship feeding.
  4. Nest Building: the two birds work together to build or repair their bird nests if they are taking over an existing nest. This process is often lengthy and requires cooperation, which strengthens their bond and is an important courtship aspect.

It often displays elaborate courtship efforts involving strength displays, cooperative behaviors, and aerial acrobatics. These are very important for bonding between mates, which ultimately leads to reproductive success.

5. Bald Eagles Exhibit A Number of Interesting Behavioral Traits

These North American birds are interesting creatures, to say the least, and they have a number of exciting behavioral traits that make them fascinating and unique. Some of their more fascinating behaviors include:

  • Their aerial displays are quite impressive. They will perform acrobatic maneuvers while flying or soaring high up into the sky. Their impressive aerial displays include performing steep dives and barrel rolls.
  • The bald Eagle definitely goes on the offensive if it is feeling threatened or physically being threatened. It will begin flapping its wings quickly, making loud, piercing calls, and it will even dive toward the potential threat.
  • These birds perform a number of different behaviors during courtship that includes Talon-locking, circling, and calling. While building their nest together, the Eagles will bring each other sticks and additional nesting material.
  • As mostly monogamous creatures, the bald eagle prefers to mate for life with the same partner, although successful breeding doesn’t always work out. Nevertheless, it tends to return to the same nesting site over and over. In fact, it even uses the same nest for many different years.

6. Bald Eagles Fly at Incredibly Fast Speeds

image of bald eagle flying
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Image by rise-a-mui from Pixabay

It is best known for its power and its ability to fly incredibly quickly. In fact, their speeds have been recorded at different times. While diving, they can reach up to 75-100 mph, which is insanely impressive if you ask me.

While flying at normal cruising speed, this bird typically achieves anywhere from 35-43 mph or anything in between. They have such oppressive agility and speed, which is an important aspect of this bird because it makes it easy for them to catch prey, including fish, small mammals, and other birds.

7. Bald Eagles Have Symbolic and Cultural Significance in the US and Other Parts of the World

Many of us are revered and admire this winged wonder, and so do many different cultures throughout history. These birds symbolize freedom, courage, and strength. A few culturally significant examples of the bald eagle include:

  • It’s the national symbol and national bird of the United States. It’s on many US coins, logos, and the Great Seal of the United States, along with various official emblems.
  • The bald eagle is looked upon as a sacred bird by Native American tribes. They believe this bird possesses spiritual powers, and they even think that it communicates with the gods. It’s featured throughout Native American folklore and art.
  • Zeus was associated with the eagle in ancient Greece. Since he was the king of the gods, this association was incredibly meaningful. In fact, many believe that the eagle would carry Zeus’s thunderbolts. It is looked upon as a symbol of the authority and power wielded by Zeus.
  • Norse mythology associates Odin with the bald eagle. He is the God of war and wisdom. The myth states that Odin is capable of transforming into an eagle, so he can gain specific insight and knowledge into the world while flying over it.
  • The American military also uses this Eagle as a symbol. It is on many military emblems, metals, and insignias. Plus, it’s on the US dollar and the United States quarter.

8. Bald Eagles: Myths and Misconceptions

image of bald eagle catching fish
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Image by Nadeem Saleem from Pixabay

Since this bird is such an iconic avian creature, it isn’t surprising to learn that it’s often misunderstood as well. A few of the common misconceptions and myths about these birds include the following:

  • Myth: The bald eagle is bald.
  • Fact: This bird isn’t actually bald, which is fairly obvious when looking at it. It has white feathers on its head because the word bald comes from the word piebald, which means white-headed.

Speaking of common myths…

Another common misconception is that eagles are incredibly aggressive and like to attack humans. These birds of prey are definitely powerful, but as far as human beings are concerned, they aren’t really a major threat.

Here’s another misconception:

  • Myth: Bald eagles only eat fish.
  • Fact: There is no denying the fact that fish are a big part of their diet. Remember, these bird species are also opportunistic hunters. They eat all kinds of prey, including carrion, birds, reptiles, and small mammals

Interestingly enough, it’s pretty common to believe that these winged creatures actually mate for life. This makes sense because these birds create such strong bonding pairs. Yet, it’s recently come to my attention that they do not necessarily mate for life. If they attempt to breed unsuccessfully, they may switch mates.

9. Bald Eagles Are Well-Represented in Art and Literature

In the world of art and literature, the bald eagle is well-represented. In fact, these majestic birds are looked upon as cultural icons that represent power, strength, and freedom.

A few interesting art and literature-related bald eagle facts include:

  • The bald eagle is well-represented throughout Native American mythology and art
  • Famous American ornithologist John James Audubon painted several gorgeous portraits of these birds during the 19th century
  • Benjamin Franklin was opposed to using this bird as the national symbol. He wanted the wild turkey to become the US national symbol instead.

The Bald Eagle: A Popular Symbol in American Literature

Harper LeeTo Kill a MockingbirdAtticus Finch is described as a bald eagle, plus it’s mentioned as a symbol of justice
John SteinbeckThe Grapes of WrathThe bald eagle is described as a metaphor for the American dream
James Fenimore CooperThe Last of the MohicansIt’s used it to describe Hawkeye and it’s also mentioned as a symbol of freedom

10. Iconic and Famous Bald Eagles

Since this is one of the most worldly and iconic birds, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that there have been a few famous ones throughout history.

The famous flyers that you may not know about include:

  1. Challenger: This highly trained bird was regularly present at public gatherings and sporting events. In 2008, it was unfortunately injured due to a car accident, yet it has since recovered and made further appearances. According to the American Eagle Foundation, “Challenger became the first bald eagle in US history trained to free-fly into major sports stadiums, arenas, and ballrooms during the National Anthem!”
  2. Mr. President: This might be the most famous bald eagle of all because it was used to model the US presidential seal. For many years, this beautiful avian creature lived in Washington DC at the National Zoo.
  3. Old Abe: Believe it or not, this highly intelligent bird was the mascot of the 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment. This Regiment was active during the Civil War. He was wounded twice and witnessed many battles during this conflict.

These are just a few examples of this bird’s use in pop culture and other facets of history. They’ve performed at public events, represent patriotic symbols, and they are admired for being such graceful and beautiful birds.

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