Eagle nests, called “eyries”, are built as high as possible, usually 60-100 feet off the ground, to maintain better visibility. New nests average five feet across and two feet deep. Mated pairs use the same nest year after year, remodeling them by adding feathers, moss, sticks and branches. After repeated use, nests may reach more than 10 feet wide and weigh several tons! Preferring solitude, bald eagles do not like to nest near humans.
Built to Hunt
Bald eagles have excellent eyesight, large talons and a hooked beak. These adaptations aid eagles in finding, catching and eating their prey. An eagle’s excellent eyesight is used while hunting when soaring high above the ground or from perches overlooking the water. Once prey is located, they dive at a gradual incline and catch prey with their powerful talons inflicting a vice-like killing grip. They fly off carrying their prey, which can often weigh half as much as the eagle. The large hooked beak is used for tearing into the prey.
Bald eagles can fly 20-40 miles per hour (32-64 km) in normal flight and can dive at speeds of 75- 100 mph (120-160 km). They can fly at altitudes of 10,000 feet or more and can soar in the air for hours riding on natural wind currents and thermal updrafts. Their large wingspan enables them to soar without flapping their wings very often and helps conserve energy as they hunt for prey.
IUCN Status: Least Concern.
Pesticide use and hunting led to a steep decline in the bald eagle population in the mid 1900s. By the 1960’s there were only about 400 breeding pairs of bald eagles in the lower 48 states. The pesticide DDT, that caused thinning of eggshells, was banned in 1972 and the bald eagle was placed under the protection of the Endangered Species list in 1973. Through conservation efforts, the decline of the bald eagle has been reversed and the population has rebounded. The status of the bald eagle was changed from endangered to threatened in 1995 and bald eagles were officially removed from the Endangered Species Act on June 28, 2007. The current population of bald eagles is estimated at nearly 10,000 breeding pairs in the lower 48 states. Although the bald eagle is still protected by federal laws, they face threats from habitat loss, illegal trapping and shooting, and collisions with utility poles and vehicles.