Kids

Animal Facts: Bald Eagle

  • Jun 06, 2019
  • 408 words
  • 2 minutes
As an animal at the top of the food chain, the bald eagle has very few natural predators. (Photo: Tony Joyce/Can Geo Photo Club)
Expand Image

The bald eagle is one of Canada’s largest birds of prey and is well-known for its regal appearance and contrasting coloured feathers. 

Image: Chris Brackley
Expand Image

Fast Facts

Common name: Bald eagle

Scientific nameHaliaeetus leucocephalus

Type: Bird

Diet: Carnivore

Group name: Aerie or convocation

Weight: 3 to 6.4 kilograms

Wingspan: more than 2 metres

COSEWIC Status: Not at risk

Did you know?

When a bald eagle loses a feather on one wing, it will lose a feather on the other in order to keep its balance.

Physical characteristics and behaviour

The bald eagle isn’t actually bald. It gets its name from the word “piebald,” which means something that is spotty or patchy. Adult eagles are dark brown, with white feathers covering their heads and tails. They also have hooked yellow beaks, large talons and feet equipped with small spikes, called “spicules,” which they use to grasp their prey. Bald eagles are able to spot their prey from very far away, thanks to their super eyesight; they can see four to seven times farther than humans. The wingspan of an adult bald eagle can extend more than two metres, making them Canada’s largest bird of prey!

Young eagles are called “eaglets” and have light grey and fluffy feathers when they first hatch. Their feathers then turn dark brown when they’re about 12 weeks old and ready to leave the nest. The feathers on their heads and tails won’t turn white until they’re about four or five years old.

Diet

Bald eagles primarily eat fish, and are skilled at swooping down to pluck a meal out of the water with their talons. They will also eat other small animals, including mammals, birds, crustaceans and reptiles.

Habitat and distribution

Bald eagles make their homes in forested areas near large bodies of water. This environment ensures large trees for nesting and good access to fish. Eagles prefer areas that are isolated from humans.

The bald eagle is the only eagle exclusive to North America. They are at the top of the food chain and have very few natural predators. When bald eagle populations dwindle, it’s likely because humans have interfered with their natural habitat. Most of Canada’s bald eagle population is found along the Pacific coast of British Columbia, with healthy eagle populations also found in the boreal forests of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and northwestern Ontario. Small groups of eagles also make their homes in southern Quebec, Cape Breton and along the coast of Newfoundland.

Advertisement

Related Content

Bald eagle, nest, environment, science, scientist, Besnard Lake, Saskatchewan, Jon Gerrard, Elston Dzus

Wildlife

This 50-year study revolutionizes our understanding of bald eagles

Jon Gerrard and Elston Dzus lead a now 50-year study of a thriving population of bald eagles in northern boreal Saskatchewan. Here they talk about the longevity of the research, key discoveries, the challenges of climbing trees and more.

  • 2404 words
  • 10 minutes
illegal wildlife trade, elephant foot, ivory, biodiversity

Wildlife

The illegal wildlife trade is a biodiversity apocalypse

An estimated annual $175-billion business, the illegal trade in wildlife is the world’s fourth-largest criminal enterprise. It stands to radically alter the animal kingdom.

  • 3405 words
  • 14 minutes
A grizzly bear lies dead on the side of the road

Wildlife

Animal crossing: Reconnecting North America’s most important wildlife corridor

This past summer an ambitious wildlife under/overpass system broke ground in B.C. on a deadly stretch of highway just west of the Alberta border. Here’s how it happened.

  • 3625 words
  • 15 minutes

Wildlife

How citizen scientists solved a migration mystery

No one knew golden eagles in the Yukon and Alaska migrated along the Rockies’ front ranges, until an avid birder noticed something strange

  • 1288 words
  • 6 minutes