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The American Bald Eagle
is our national bird, unique to North America. At one time, the word "bald" meant "white," not hairless. The bald eagle is found over most of North America, from Alaska and Canada to northern Mexico. There are an estimated 50,000 bald eagles in the United States, with 80% of them found in Alaska.
The bald eagle was designated as the national bird of the United States in 1782. Its name does not imply a lack of feathers, but instead is derived from the word piebald, meaning "marked with white." The bald eagle reigns as the second-largest bird of prey in North America, after the California condor.
Bald Eagles feed primarily on fish, but also eat small animals (ducks, coots, muskrats, turtles, rabbits, snakes, etc.) and occasional carrion (dead animals). They swoop down to seize fish in their powerful, long and sharp talons (approximately 1,000 pounds of pressure per square inch in each foot). They can carry their food off in flight, but can only lift about half their weight. Bald Eagles can fly at speeds of about 65 miles per hour in level flight, and up to 150 or 200 miles per hour in a dive. They can fly to altitudes of 10,000 feet or more, and can soar aloft for hours using natural wind currents and thermal updrafts. Bald Eagles can swim to shore with a heavy fish using their strong wings as paddles.
Bald Eagles are monogamous and mate for life. A Bald Eagle will only select another mate if its faithful companion should die. They build large nests, at the top of sturdy tall trees. The nests become larger as the eagles return to breed and add new nesting materials year after year. Bald Eagles make their new nests an average of 2 feet deep and 5 feet across. Eventually, some nests reach sizes of more than 10 feet wide and can weigh several tons. When a nest is destroyed by natural causes it is often rebuilt nearby. Nests are lined with twigs, soft mosses, grasses and feathers. The female lays 1 to 3 eggs annually in the springtime, which hatch after about 35 days of incubation. Hunting, egg incubation, nest watch, eaglet feeding and eaglet brooding duties are shared by both parents until the young are strong enough to fly at about 12 weeks of age.
Only about 50% of eaglets hatched survive the first year.