The bald eagle is a large raptor with a yellow, hook-shaped bill and a white head and tail. (Nav Tombros/Flickr)
The bald eagle is a large raptor with a yellow, hook-shaped bill and a white head and tail. It lives in forested, sparsely developed areas near rivers, wetlands and other waterways throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Dark brown body
White head and tail
Massive yellow, hook-shaped bill
Feathers only reach halfway down the legs, leaving the ankles “naked”
Yellow feet with long claws, called talons
Immature bald eagles (less than five years old) are mottled brownish all over, and lack the white head and tail of adults
Grows 30-40 inches long with a wingspan of up to 7 feet
Lives in forested areas near water, including rivers, wetlands and reservoirs
Found year-round throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, particularly in sparsely developed areas near water
The Chesapeake region is also an important stop for bald eagles migrating from other parts of North America during spring and autumn
Eats mostly fish, but will also prey upon waterfowl and small mammals, especially in winter
Hunts by perching atop a tree to look for prey, then swooping down and grasping its prey in its talons
Often scavenges for food by stealing prey from other birds or eating carrion and garbage
Does not have any major predators
Holds its wings flat and straight while flying
Makes a sharp, cackling kleek-kik-ik-ik-ik or a lower kak-kak-kak.
Reproduction and Life Cycle:
Largest breeding populations in the Chesapeake region are located in Dorchester County, Maryland, and along the James, Potomac and Rappahannock rivers
Bald eagles raised in the Bay region usually stay here their entire lives, as long as they have access to water
Males and females go through an unusual courtship ritual. While flying, they lock their talons together and then tumble toward the ground, breaking apart just before they reach the water
Eagle pairs usually build and repair their nests in early winter. Nests are made of large sticks and located near the top of mature trees close to water. Bald eagle nests are some of the largest nests in the world, weighing up to 2 tons.
Females lay 1-3 eggs (usually two) in January-March. She incubates them for 5-6 weeks, and they usually hatch a day or two apart.
If a female lays three eggs and all three hatch, the youngest chick usually does not survive because it cannot compete with its older siblings for food
Chicks typically fledge at 10-12 weeks old, sometime between May and July. They still rely on their parents for several weeks after their first flight.
From approximately 1-4 years old, bald eagles are considered “immature” and have different coloring than adults
Immature eagles do not establish a breeding territory, instead moving throughout the region in search of food
Can live as long as 28 years in the wild
The national emblem of the United States
Can be confused with ospreys and vultures. You can distinguish a bald eagle by its pure white head and tail, and its “naked” ankles.