Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Species Spotlight: Bald Eagle ww

The Bald Eagle is recognized by most all Americans as a symbol of our amazing nation.  This particular bird of prey has been a national emblem since June 20th, 1782.  The Bald Eagle was chosen in part because it is found only on the North American continent.

Clark, Bald Eagle, flies at World Bird Sanctuary's Open House in 2013
Photo: Sandra Murray
 You’re probably wondering how it got its name ‘Bald Eagle’.  No, this bird is not really bald; its name is derived from an earlier meaning.  At the time when this eagle was coined the ‘Bald Eagle’, bald actually meant white opposed to hairless.  Therefore, its name is derived from its head plumage as an adult.  Juveniles have a brown head and tail.   Additionally, mature Bald Eagles are characterized by their bright yellow-orange beak and feet and yellow irises.  These amazing birds of prey can reach 30-37 inches in length and can weigh between 8-14 pounds depending on their sex.  Male and female Bald Eagles generally look identical, although females are larger than males and usually have a slightly longer back toe and beak.
Wild Bald Eagle
Photo: Gay Schroer
There are two subspecies of the Bald Eagle coined the “Northern” Bald Eagle, found anywhere north of 40 degrees north latitude across the entire continent, and “Southern”, found anywhere south of 40 degrees north latitude.  The northern Bald Eagles are significantly larger than their southern relations.  These birds of prey can lift up to anywhere between one third to one half of their total body weight.  Fish and small mammals make up their main source of nutrients. 

A Bald Eagle’s vocalizations have often been described as high pitched shrills or as twittering.  They use these vocalizations to reinforce the relationship between a male and female or as defense to warn other eagles that a territory is defended.  These extraordinary birds have the same size eyes as a human, but are able to see 8-9 times sharper than that of a person with perfect vision.  Their habitats are usually formed along the coasts and around lakes and rivers where their diet consists of mostly fish.  These massive birds of prey have an average lifespan of about 15-20 years in the wild.  They have been known to double and sometimes even triple that in captivity.  

Juvenile Bald Eagle in recovery after being treated at the Kathryn G. Favre Wildlife Hospital at World Bird Sanctuary.
Photo: World Bird Sanctuary
If you are interested in learning more or seeing one of these brilliant raptors up close and in person come pay us a visit at World Bird Sanctuary in Valley Park, MO.  We would love to have you!

Submitted by:
Callie Plakovic, Outreach Coordinator, World Bird Sanctuary

No comments: