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The National Bird of America - Bald Eagle - Haliaeetus leucocephalus

The Bald Eagle - Haliaeetus leucocephalus - is the national bird of the USA and is the only eagle unique to North America. It is a sea eagle that’s range includes most of Alaska, Canada and the United States. About half of the world's bald eagles live in Alaska.

In the late 20th century the Bald Eagle was on the brink of extinction in the United States, while flourishing in much of Alaska and Canada. Populations in the US have recovered and stabilized. It is found near large bodies of open water with an abundant food supply and old-growth trees for nesting.

Bald Eagles are not actually bald, the name derives from the older meaning of the word, "white headed".

Bald Eagle is evenly brown with a white head and tail. The tail is moderately long and slightly wedge-shaped. Males and females are identical in plumage coloration, but females are 25 percent larger than males. The beak and feet are yellow. The legs are feather-free, and the toes are short and powerful with large talons. The highly developed talon of the hind toe is used to pierce the vital areas of prey while it is held immobile by the front toes. The beak is large and hooked, with a yellow cere. Young birds are brown, speckled with white until the forth/fifth year, when they reach sexual maturity.

When they are old enough to breed, they often return to the area where they were born. It is thought that Bald Eagles mate for life. Bald Eagle courtship involves elaborate calls and flight displays. The Bald Eagle builds the largest nest of any North American bird. The nest is built out of branches, usually in large trees near water. When breeding where there are no trees, the Bald Eagle will nest on the ground. Eagles produce between one and three eggs per year, but it is rare for all three chicks to successfully fly. Both the male and female take turns incubating the eggs. The other parent will hunt for food or look for nesting material. This species breeds in Canada, USA, Mexico, and the French island territories of Saint Pierre and Miquelon. The average lifespan of Bald Eagles in the wild is around 20 years, with the oldest living to be about 30.

The call consists of weak chirping whistles, harsher and shriller from young birds than adults.

Bald eagles feed mainly of fish, but they are opportunistic feeders. They hunt fish by swooping down and snatching the fish out of the water with its talons. Locally, eagles may rely largely on carrion, especially in winter. They will scavenge carcasses and they may also feed on subsistence’s scavenged or stolen from campsites and picnics, as well as garbage dumps. Prey includes rabbits, raccoons, muskrats, beavers, grebes, ducks, and geese. Bald Eagles will steal fish and other prey away from smaller raptors.

On June 28, 2007 the American bald eagle was taken off the Endangered Species List.


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