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Bald Eagle
Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Increasing.

Other Names: Gray-backed Sea-eagle, White-breasted Fish-eagle, White-breasted Fish-hawk, White-breasted Sea-eagle.

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Haliaeetus leucocephalus
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Distribution: Nearctic. Breeds from the ALEUTIAN ISLANDS, central ALASKA, and northern CANADA (Yukon, Manitoba, Labrador, Newfoundland) south through continental UNITED STATES to northern MEXICO (Baja California Norte, Sonora); northern populations are migratory and disperse somewhat sporadically over most of North America; accidental in the COMMANDER ISLANDS, KAMCHATKA PENINSULA, and the Kolyma River region. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic. more....

Taxonomy: A morphological analysis by Zimbelmann (1992), an allozyme analysis by Schreiber and Weitzel (1995), and molecular phylogenetic analyses by Wink et al. (1996), Seibold and Helbig (1996), and Lerner and Mindell (2005), confirmed that Haliaeetus is monophyletic with a close relationship to the milvine kites of the genera Milvus and Haliastur. The latter authors found that the northern sea eagle species, H. albicilla, H. leucocephalus, H. pelagicus, and H. leucoryphus, form a clade distinct from the southern members of the genus. The Bald Eagle and the White-tailed Eagle are sister species (Wink et al. (op cit.).

Movements: Partial migrant (Bildstein 2006). Many northern birds move south during the winter months, and some birds in southern states wander northward during the non-breeding season (March-October). more....

Habitat and Habits: Occurs primarily near sea coasts, rivers, swamps, large lakes, and other bodies of water, but less closely associated with water during the non-breeding season. more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: A dietary generalist, feeding primarily on fish in watered areas, but it is opportunistic and will take any mammalian or avian prey, as well as carrion, in upland areas, especially during the nonbreeding season. Generally hunts from a prominent perch, but will sometimes take prey while on flight. Fish, dead or live, are captured with the talons, or from shallow water with the beak, and generally carried back to a feeding perch or to the nest. It is well known that this species occasionally pirates fish from Ospreys, or from other piscivorous birds. more....

Breeding: Builds a huge nest of sticks, generally placed in a tall tree, but sometimes on a cliff ledge. Nests are used in successive years and sometimes become massive structures 3-4 m high or more. Clutch size is 1-3 eggs (most often 2), which are white and unmarked. The incubation is 32-34 days, and the young fledge fro the nest at 10-12 weeks. more....

Conservation: Bald Eagle populations plummeted in the United States and southern Canadian portions of its range from the 1950s to the early 1970s, primarily as the result of the eggshell thinning effects of DDE, a breakdown metabolite of the pesticide DDT. The species was placed on the endangered species list in 1973. After DDT was banned for domestic use in the United States in 1972, following an earlier ban in Canada, the species enjoyed a spectacular recovery, which was also facilitated by the protection of many breeding and roosting sites, a reduction in persecution (shooting and trapping), and a decline in lead poisoning, as a result of a ban on the use of lead shot for waterfowl hunting on federal lands. The Bald Eagle was downlisted from Endangered to Threatened in 1995, but it was not formally removed from the U.S. Federal endangered species list until 29 June 2007. It is categorized as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International. more....

Population Estimates: The documented population in the lower 48 states has gone from a low of 417 nesting pairs in 1963 to an estimated high of 9,789 breeding pairs in 2006, or at least 19,578 individuals, according to an annual survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds.BaldEagle.htm). BirdLife International (2009) estimated the number of mature birds at 300,000 individuals, but this was apparently taken from probably overly optimistic figures published by Partners in Flight (Rich et al. 2004). more....

Important References: 
Bent, A.C. 1937. Life histories of North American birds of prey. Order
  Falconiformes (Part 1). U.S. National Museum Bulletin 167.
Bird, D.M. (ed.). 1983. Biology and management of Bald Eagles and Ospreys.
  MacDonald Raptor Research Centre, McGill University, Montreal, Canada.
Buehler, D.A. 2000. Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). In A. Poole and
  F. Gill (eds.), The Birds of North America no. 506. The Academy of Natural
  Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The Ameircan Ornithologists' Union,
  Washington, D.C.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Harmata, A., and B. Oakleaf. 1992. Bald Eagles in the Greater Yellowstone
  ecosystem: an ecological study with emphasis on the Snake River, Wyoming.
  Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Cheyenne, WY.
Herrick, F.H. 1934. The American eagle: a study in natural and civil
  history. D. Appleton-Century, New York.
Hunt, W.G., D.E. Driscoll, E.W. Bianchi, and R.E. Jackman. 1992. Ecology
  of Bald Eagles in Arizona, Report to U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Contract
  6-CS-30-04470. BioSystems Analysis, Inc., Santa Cruz, CA.
Lerner, H.R., and D.P. Mindell. 2005. Phylogeny of eagles, Old World
  vultures, and other Accipitridae based on nuclear and mitochondrial DNA.
  Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 37:327-346.
Sherrod, S.K., C.M. White, and F.S.L. Williamson. 1977. Biology of the
  Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus alascensis on Amchitka Island, Alaska.
  Living Bird 15:143-182.
Steenhof, K., L. Bond, and L. L. Dunn. 2008. The Midwinter Bald Eagle
  Survey results and analysis 1986-2005. U.S.Geological Survey, National
  Biological Information Infrastructure, and Northwest Alliance for
  Computational Science and Engineering. http://www.nacse.org/nbii/eagles.
White, C.M. 1994. Bald Eagle. Pp. 122-123 in del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott, and
  J. Saragatal (eds). Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New World
  vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Whitfield, D.W., J.M. Gerrard, W.J. Maher, and D.W. Davis. 1974. Bald
  Eagle nesting habitat, density, and reproduction in central Saskatchewan and
  Manitoba. Canadian Field-Naturalist 88:339-407.

Sites of Interest:
Eagle Nest Cam
Live coverage of an eagle nest in Massachusetts.
Eagle Nest Cam
An Oklahoma nest monitored by the George Miksch Sutton Avian Research Center.
Eagle Nest Cam
A nest on Santa Cruz Island, off California.
Bald Eagle Delisting
A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service site which contains a wealth of information on Bald Eagle population trends and size on a state-by-state basis.
The National Eagle Center
A facility in Wabasha, Minnesota devoted to fostering environmental stewardship and community sustainability through education about eagles and the Mississippi River watershed.
Bald Eagle photos.
Midwinter Bald Eagle Count
Results of Midwinter Bald Eagle Surveys conducted from 1986-2005 along 746 routes in 43 states.
The Eagle Institute
A non-profit organization in Pennsylvania dedicated to the conservation of Bald Eagles and others birds of prey.

Andersen, David
Anderson, Clifford "Bud"
Bechard, Marc J.
Bedrosian, Bryan
Collins, Paul
Dykstra, Cheryl
Goodrich, Laurie
Grier, James W.
Harmata, Al
Harness, Richard
Hunt, Grainger
Lincer, Jeff
Linthicum, Janet
Matz, Angela
McIntyre, Carol
Mealey, Brian
Millsap, Brian
Mojica, Libby
Restani, Marco
Ritchie, Robert J.
Sharpe, Peter
Sherrod, Steve K.
Smith, Brian
Steenhof, Karen
Thelander, Carl
Watson, Jim
Watts, Bryan
Westall, Mark
Wierda, Michael

Last modified: 3/16/2010

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2022. Species account: Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 23 Jan. 2022

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