America’s National Bird
The bald eagle is the only eagle unique to North America. Its scientific name means ‘sea eagle with a white head’. It is not bald but it got its name because at one time the word “bald” meant “white”. It has a blackish-brown back and breast, a white head, neck, and tail. Its feet and beak are yellow. Bald eagles live along the coast and on major lakes as well as rivers where they feed mainly on fish. About half of the world’s bald eagle populations live in Alaska.
Bald eagles are about half as tall as an adult human – around 3 feet in height. They only weigh around 14 lbs. or about as much as a 4 month old baby. Their wing span is very impressive – around 6 to 8 feet. The bald eagle is not picky about how it gets its food. It will eat carrion, steal fish from other birds or hunt for its own. Bald eagles hunt by swooping down and grabbing fish that are near the surface of the lake or stream. Sometimes; they will also snare and eat small mammals. Bald eagles are active during daylight hours. An interesting behavior of these birds is “talon clasping” or “cartwheel display”, where two eagles clasp each other’s talons in mid air and spin down, letting go only when they’ve almost reached the ground.
For many decades, bald eagles were hunted by humans. One of the reasons is to protect fishing grounds since these birds feed mainly on fish. This caused the decline in bald eagle’s populations. Furthermore, pesticides like DDT also killed them because these chemicals collect in fish, which make up most of the eagle’s diet. After the use of DDT as well as hunting of bald eagle was restricted, the eagle’s population increased and these birds are no longer threatened with extinction. They are now a protected species. The bald eagle is the National Bird of the United States of America.