Bald Eagle

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), the official emblem of the United States, belongs to a group of birds known as fish eagles, which includes one or more species in most of the world except for the American tropics. Bald Eagles are generally found close to water and often occur in rather dense concentrations in certain areas during the winter. They breed from Alaska and northern Canada south to Baja California, Sonora, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and the Gulf coast from southeastern Texas to the Florida Keys (breeding is very local in interior North America). Southern and coastal adults often do not migrate, but birds from the far northern interior migrate south in winter. Although they often feed on carrion, including dead fish washed up on shorelines, and may steal food captured by other birds such as Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus), Bald Eagles are also capable of capturing their own prey in shallow water or on land. Their diet is usually dominated by fish when it is available, but also includes birds, mammals, and a variety of other small animals. Bald Eagles generally do not breed until four or five years of age and may mate for life. (Kaufman 1996; AOU 1998)

Since its decline and listing in 1978 under the U.S. Endangered Species Act as Endangered in most of the lower 48 states, the number of Bald Eagles in the lower 48 increased 25-fold to around 10,000 nesting pairs. This recovery is generally attributed to the 1973 banning in the United States of the insecticide DDT (which impairs normal egg development in birds of prey), protection from shooting, improved water quality, habitat protection, and hacking programs to actively reintroduce Bald Eagles to areas from which they had disappeared. The population increases led to the downlisting of the Bald Eagle's status in the lower 48 states from Endangered to Threatened in 1995 and then to its de-listing altogether in 2007.

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  • Title: Bald Eagle
  • Location: North or South Dakota, United States, North America
  • Type: Taxidermy Specimen
  • Rights: This image was obtained from the Smithsonian Institution. The image or its contents may be protected by international copyright laws. http://www.si.edu/termsofuse
  • External Link: https://dcbirds.si.edu/bird/bald-eagle
  • Scientific Name: <i>Haliaeetus leucocephalus</i>
  • Photo Credit: David Price, Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History
  • Field: Vertebrate Zoology
  • Date Collected: Late 1970s