Introduction - Bald EagleThe American Bald Eagle is found only in North America and are plentiful in the boreal forests. With the exception of Hawaii, they are found in all fifty states as well as parts of Canada and Mexico. The bird was chosen as the national symbol of the Unites States in 1782 because of admirable characteristics, such as its strength and independence. Although the bald eagle is one of the most recognizable birds, few people know more than the basic facts about this amazing bird. The information listed below will provide an overview including what bald eagles eat, where they nest, when they use their talons and their voice, and why their beak is so important. This information is written for kids and adults.
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Bald Eagle General Facts
- The Bald Eagle is not actually bald; it was named during a time when the word bald meant white. After about five years of age, they have vibrant white hair on their head.
- Once nests are established, Bald Eagles keep their nests from one year to the next and continually build on them, making the nests enormous over time. In fact, the biggest nest ever built was made by a bald eagle, weighing in at close to 3 tons (2721 kgs).
- Characteristic markings include a bright yellow bill and feet, pure white head, and various shades of brown and white on the body, depending on the age of the eagle.
- They feed mainly on dead or decaying fish and have earned the reputation of being a scavenger, but they are also part predator. They will dive at rates of up to 100 miles per hour to catch fish but they can only successfully carry ones weighing no more than 5 pounds.
- The wingspan of a female Bald Eagle is greater than that of a male. The females wings can reach up to eight feet (2.4 meters) while the males wingspan reaches over six feet (1.8 meters).
- Bald Eagles have high pitched vocalizations but do not have vocal chords. Instead, the noise is produced in a bony area near the trachea called the syrinx. It is thought that the noises are a way of calling to the opposite sex and marking their territory.
- The beak and talons are lethal weapons used on prey. They are made of keratin and therefore grow continually, just like human fingernails. The beak is strong but can also be used for more delicate things like grooming a mate and feeding a baby chick.
- Eagles are a member of the Accipitridae family; which includes different size birds with several characteristics in common, the main one being the presence of bills with strong hooks like hawks and eagles.
Bald Eagle Talon Facts
- Bald Eagles have talons, which are sharp claws, used for both hunting food and defending themselves.
- The primary food source is fish. To catch fish, the eagles swoop down into the water and use their talons to grasp on to and lift out the fish. They then open the fish by using their talons.
- The talons along with the beak and feathers are made entirely of keratin, a type of protein.