The bald eagle is a bird that is found in North America. With the exception of Hawaii, this bird of prey lives in every part of the United States; as well as in Canada. The bald eagle lives near water, such as rivers, lakes, and along seacoasts; it prefers areas in which tall trees are available and fish are handy for consumption. Bald eagles, living in the upper parts of North America, migrate south during the winter to find a more readily available food supply. Some living in the southernmost parts of North America migrate north during the summer, escaping sweltering temperatures.
Newly hatched bald eagles have a light gray coloring that changes to speckled brown as they age; the young birds also have dark brown beaks and eyes. Adult bald eagles have yellow beaks and eyes, weighing approximately seven to 15 pounds (3.2 to 6.8 kilograms). They have white heads, with tail feathers to match, and darker bodies. They range in length from 29 to 42 inches (73.7 to 106.7 centimeters) and boast a wingspan of about six to eight feet (1.8 to 2.4 meters); female bald eagles tend to be larger than their male counterparts. The bald eagle is among the largest birds on the North American continent.
Though the bald eagle chooses to dine mostly on fish, it does count many other animals among its prey. The bald eagle eats a variety of small animals, including snakes and rodents. Though it is not its normal diet, the bald eagle will even consume dead animals occasionally. Bald eagles swoop down and grab their prey, catching them in their strong, sharp talons. Though they are capable of diving at speeds of up to 100 miles (160.9 kilometers) per hour, they generally don’t dive vertically in pursuit of food; they descend more slowly and snatch prey with their talons instead.
The bald eagle is a faithful bird, staying with one mate for its entire life. However, it will choose another bird if its mate dies. Together, bald eagles fly to the top of tall trees to create large nests, returning each year to breed. They line their nests with such things as sticks, feathers, and grass, adding nesting materials each year. Bald eagle mates share in hunting responsibilities, as well as those related to the birth and care of their offspring.
The bald eagle has been the United States’ national emblem since 1782. It is said that Benjamin Franklin preferred the wild turkey, accusing the bald eagle of having a low moral character. However, the Founding Fathers settled on the bald eagle, citing the fact that its species was unique to the continent. Since its selection as the national bird, the bald eagle has been used to represent the United States in a variety of sectors, including art, music, and folklore.