The Bald Eagle has been the national emblem of the United States since 1782 and a spiritual symbol for native people for far longer than that. These regal birds aren’t really bald, but their white-feathered heads gleam in contrast to their chocolate-brown body and wings. Look for them soaring in solitude, chasing other birds for their food, or gathering by the hundreds in winter. Once endangered by hunting and pesticides, Bald Eagles have flourished under protection.The adult bald eagle is a striking dark brownish black bird with a white head and tail. Juvenile birds are a mottled brown with white blotches.
They do not obtain the full distinctive plumage of the adults until they are four or five years old. Bills, legs, and feet are a deep yellow.Their wingspans range from six and a half to seven and a half feet, while body length varies from about three to three and a half feet. Bald eagles weigh from six to eight pounds. Females are larger than males and have a slightly longer wingspan.Bald eagles have lived up to 48 years in zoos, although their life span in the wild is likely far shorter.Bald eagles occur from Baja California and Florida north to Newfoundland and Alaska. Within this area, they are nearly always found near water, along rivers, lakes, or the sea coast and coastal marshes, reservoirs, and large lakes.
They also pass over mountains and plains during migration. The northern and interior populations may migrate to open water in the winter months.Bald eagles are believed to mate for life. A pair constructs an enormous stick nest—one of the bird-world’s biggest—high above the ground and tends to a pair of eggs each year. Immature eagles are dark, and until they are about five years old, they lack the distinctive white markings that make their parents so easy to identify. Young eagles roam great distances. Florida birds have been spotted in Michigan, and California eagles have traveled all the way to Alaska.
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