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Generalized Bald Eagle Facts

Scientific Name of Bald eagle: Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Haliaeetus = member of the sea or fish eagle group
leucocephalus = leuco=white, cephalus = head

Formally adopted as national emblem on June 20, 1782

Eagle Size

What is their wingspan and how much do they weigh?

Northern = Larger

The average wingspan of an eagle ranges from 6 to 7.5 feet (182cm-229cm) but it depends on the overall size of the bird. Overall, eagles in northern parts areas tend to be larger overall, including having a larger wingspan, than southern bald eagles.
Generally, females are slightly larger than males who weigh approximately 25% less than females from the same area. On average, the female bald eagle weighs in around 10-14 pounds.


Do eagles migrate? Do their young migrate with them?

Migration Patterns Vary

Interestingly, only some eagles migrate. Migration is generally connected to food sources. If an eagle’s breeding territory has ample food sources through the winter, the eagle is less likely to migrate. However, if an eagle’s breeding territory is in northern states where lakes and streams freeze or prey animals hibernate, the eagle will migrate south to find open water and food.
Also, juveniles typically do not migrate with their parents.

Nesting Habits

When does an eagle nest and mate?

November - December

Nest building can begin 1-3 months prior to mating and is considered part of the breeding process. Breeding season varies regionally, whether north, south, east or west.
In Florida, for Victoria and Nicholas, nesting will usually begin anywhere from November to January.

Feeding Patterns

What do bald eagles eat?

Primarily Fish And Scavenging

Eagles are birds of prey, meaning they are flesh eating birds. Fish is the primary food source of bald eagles, but they will eat a variety of other animals and birds. Their prey items could include waterfowl and small mammals like squirrels, raccoons and rabbits. Bald eagles are opportunistic predators and they will steal from other animals, primarily from other eagles or smaller fish eating birds such as osprey. They will also scavenge and eat roadkill or parts of mammals that hunters or other animals have left behind (carrion).
Who builds the nest?
Being able to carry 4-5 lbs of weight, bald eagles will often take their food back to their nest and eat. However, they sometimes eat on the ground, a nearby perch, near their water source or if the fish is small enough, they’ll eat while flying!

Eagle Eyes

How far can the eagles see and are they color blind?

Eagles see in color!

An eagle’s eyeball is almost the same size as a human eye. Given that the eyeball is so large relative to the size of the head, an eagle’s eyes fill most of the skull.
Eagles use both monocular and binocular vision so they can use their eyes independently or together, depending on what they are looking at. An eagle eye has two focal points, “foveae,” one of which looks forward and the other to the side at about a 45 degree angle. These two foveae allow eagles to see straight ahead and to the side simultaneously. The fovea at 45 degrees is used to view things at long distances. An eagle can see something the size of a rabbit at more than three miles away.
Yes! Eagles can distinguish more colors than humans. They can also see in the UV range of light which allows them to see the urine trail of prey.

Nest Facts

Who builds and where? How big is the nest? What's it made of?

Strong Nest Fidelity & Territorial

Do eagles use the same nest every year?
Eagles have strong nest site fidelity, meaning they return to the same nest and nesting territory each year. If they successfully produce young at a nest, they are likely to return to that nest year after year.
Who builds the nest?
Male and female eagles build the nest together. Both eagles will bring sticks to add to the nest structure and arrange them within the nest. The nest building activity is part of their pair bonding. Bald eagles typically choose to nest in a forested area close to their water source and usually choose the tallest living tree. The nest is usually at the highest point in the tree that can support the nest and overlook the area in which they are nesting. In some areas where there are few tall trees, bald eagles will nest on the ground or in crags or cliffsides.
How big is an eagle’s nest?
The average bald eagle nest is 4 to 5 feet in diameter and 2 to 4 feet deep. Each year the adult pair will add 1-2 feet of new material to the nest. The largest recorded bald eagle nest, located in St. Petersburg, FL, Florida, was 9.5 feet in diameter, 20 feet deep and weighed almost 3 tons! It’s in the Guinness Book of World Records!

What is the nest made of?
A bald eagle nest is constructed of interwoven sticks. The interior is lined with grass, corn stalks, stubble or other softer material indigenous to the area. The bowl, or nest cavity, is filled with the softest materials including moss (which may serve as an insect repellent), grass and downy feathers from adults.

Facts About Eggs & Incubation

What do the eggs look like? How many are there? How long before they hatch?

1 - 3 Eggs in a Clutch

The average clutch is 1-3 eggs. The female will lay an egg every 3-5 days when she is ready.
The incubation period for bald eagles is generally about 35 days.

Eagles in Flight

How high and fast can they fly?

35 MPH!

Few other birds can fly as high as a bald eagle can. They can fly to an altitude of 10,000 feet where they soar and glide! They are able to fly this high in part due to their excellent vision which enables them to see at such heights.
During level flight, a bald eagle can achieve speeds of about 30 to 35 mph.


How long before the eaglets fledge?

10 - 12 Weeks of Age

Fledging” means to take the first flight. Bald eagles will usually fledge when they are 10-12 weeks old.
Before they fledge, the eaglets practice by “branching.” They will flap their wings and jump from the nest to nearby branches to strengthen their wings and prepare them for flying. First flights are generally downward glides from the nest to a lower branch or the ground.
After fledging and learning to feed themselves, the young immature eagles are allowed to return to the nest for the remainder of the summer. After the first year, most young eagles are usually not observed near their parent’s nest.

*Many resources were used to gather these interesting facts. They include but are not limited to: American Eagle Foundation, Nature Eagle Foundation, National Eagle Center, www.livescience.com, US Fish & Wildlife Service