Bald Eagle

As far as I’m concerned one of the most breathtaking sights is seeing a Bald Eagle soaring through the sky. These majestic animals have managed to fight their way back from the edge of extinction with the help of the both the Endangered Species Act (though it has been removed from that list) and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, in addition to the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

Bald Eagle flying over Boomer Lake, Stillwater OK

It was the combination of being placed on the Endangered Species List and having the chemical DTT banned that allowed for the species to make a rebound. The problem with the chemical DTT was that it would wash out of agricultural areas and into streams and lakes—fish would become contaminated with it—the eagles would eat the contaminated fish and then the DTT actually caused the egg shells to be extremely thin that the number of hatchings dropped considerably. This is in addition to the young bald eagles being hunted and killed by hunters who thought they were golden eagles—bald eagles don’t develop their white heads for a couple of years. The young look more like golden eagles than they do their parents.

Bald Eagle sitting on the top of a pine tree, Lake Vermilion MN

While the species has made a come back in terms of population, they are still at risk—not from DTT, but from other chemicals that run off into the waters such as lead, mercury, and other heavy metals. This means that there is still work to be done to help protect, preserve, and recover the environment for future generations to also be able to enjoy.

Adults are easier to identify than immature because they have the striking white heads and tails. Younger bald eagles look more like golden eagles, and don’t transition to the white head and tail for at least three to five years (sometimes as soon as two years—but usually somewhere between three and five).

Bald Eagle sitting atop a pine tree, Lake Vermilion MN

Bald Eagles are native to North America, and their range stretches from Alaska down to northern Mexico. The parts of North America that have the largest populations of bald eagles include Alaska and northwestern Canada.

Range map of the Bald Eagle. (c) Birds of the World

As hard is it is to tell in the picture—there is a river that runs close to where I live in OK, and that is a small local area where bald eagles nest year round. They will fly a decent distance to area lakes to hunt, but then head back to their year-round nesting area.

Since they’re fishing eagles, they can be found around large lakes, reservoirs, rivers, marshes, and the coasts. They’re also opportunistic birds and will try to steal the catches from other fishing birds such as ospreys, and will also feed on dead fish as well.

Bald Eagle soaring over Boomer Lake, Stillwater OK

Their diet consists mainly of fish (such as salmon, and catfish) but will also eat other small birds, reptiles, frogs, crabs, and small mammals such as rabbits and muskrats. They aren’t picky on terms of the status of their prey—either alive and fresh, or dead.


Bald Eagle, the Ultimate Endangered Species Act Success Story