Type: Bird Conservation Status: Least concern
Diet: Carnivore Average life span: 28 – 30 years
Weight: 3 to 7 kg Size: Body, 86 to 109 cm; Wingspan, 1.8 to 2.4 m
Eagles are one of the most popular birds worldwide because of their peculiarities and their reference to being one of the most powerful and resilient birds of the wild. They are particularly referenced in various cultures, social and religious settings in contexts of strength, power, freedom and success.
Eagles have unusual eyes and extremely large pupils which are very large in proportion to their heads. Their eyes have a million light-sensitive cells per square mm of retina, five times more that a human’s 200,000. While humans see just three basic colors, eagles see five. These adaptations gives eagles extremely keen eyesight and enable them to spot even well-camouflaged potential prey from a very long distance. In fact the eagles’ vision is among the sharpest of any animal and studies suggest that some eagles can spot an animal the size of a rabbit up to two miles away! The Bald and Golden Eagle (which we will discuss) are mostly resident in North America – United States, Canada, Alaska and Mexico
The Bald Eagle
The bald eagle is not in any way bald as the name depicts because it has a snowy-white-feathered head and white tail. They are mostly found in Alaska and Canada. They are powerful birds of prey and they either use their talons to fish or eat small mammals or scavenge and steal the kills of other animals. They generally live near water in areas where fish are abundant
Bald eagles are believed to mate for life. A pair of partner bald eagles will construct an enormous stick nest high above the ground, mate and tend to a pair of eggs each year. When eaglets are hatched, they lack the distinctive white markings and remain dark until about five years old. Also, young eagles roam great distances across geographical boundaries.
For many decades, bald eagles were hunted for sport and to protect fishing grounds. Also, pesticides like DDT also wreaked havoc on eagles and other birds. These chemicals collect in fish, which make up most of the eagle’s diet. They weaken the bird’s eggshells and severely limited their ability to reproduce. However, since DDT use has been heavily restricted in much of North America since 1972, eagle numbers have rebounded significantly and have been aided by reintroduction programs. Currently, the birds have been upgraded from endangered to least concern.
These birds are dark brown, with lighter golden-brown plumage on their heads and necks. They are extremely swift, and can dive upon their prey at speeds of more than 150 miles (241 kilometers) per hour. Apart from North America, golden eagles can also be found in Asia, northern Africa, and Europe.
Golden eagles are carnivorous and they use their speed and sharp talons to snatch up rabbits, marmots, and ground squirrels. They also eat carrion, reptiles, birds, fish, and large insects. They have even been known to attack full grown deer.
Golden eagles are also monogamous and pairs can maintain territories that may be as large as 60 square miles (155 square kilometers). They remain with their mate for several years or possibly for life nesting in high places including cliffs, trees, or human structures such as telephone poles. They can also build huge nests to which they may return for several breeding years. Females lay from one to four eggs, and both parents incubate them for 40 to 45 days. Typically, one or two young golden eagles may survive in about three months.
Ranchers once killed many of these birds for fear that they would prey on their livestock, but studies showed that the animal’s impact was minimal. Today, golden eagles are protected by law.
5 interesting things you must know about Eagles
- The Bald Eagle is the national bird symbol of the United States and it has been said that Ben Franklin famously argued against the bird’s nomination as the United State’s national symbol because of the bird’s activities in scavenging and stealing the kills of other animals.
- The Golden Eagle is the national bird symbol of Mexico.
- The Golden eagle is also North America’s largest bird of prey.
- The Bald and Golden eagles are monogamous and would usually stick to one partner most of their lives.
- The largest bald eagle nest on record was 9.5 ft (3 m) wide and 20 ft (6 m) high and weighed over two tons.