Bald Eagle

Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Closely associated with rivers and coastlines, the majestic Bald Eagle is America's national bird. A symbol of strength and power, and a sacred symbol for many Native American peoples, these eagles are one of the most recognizable birds on Earth.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle hunting over a lake, Alaska

Bald Eagle hunting over a lake, Alaska

Bald Eagle in flight

Bald Eagle in flight

Close up of a pair of Bald Eagles

Close up of a pair of Bald Eagles

Appearance & Identification

What do Bald Eagles look like?

Bald Eagles are massive birds of prey, instantly recognizable by their white heads and tails, and chocolate-brown bodies. Their legs and large, hooked bills are yellow, and a close view reveals their piercing pale, yellow-blue eyes. Their scientific name translates as ‘white-headed sea-eagle.’

Female Bald Eagles look much the same as their male counterparts. One visible physical difference lies in their size. Females may be as much as a third larger than males, a common phenomenon in birds of prey.

Juvenile Bald Eagles look distinct from adults and may be confused for another majestic American raptor, the Golden Eagle. That’s because young Bald Eagles don’t develop their characteristic white heads and yellow bills for their first five years or so. Until then, juveniles are mostly dark brown with yellow legs and increasing amounts of white plumage.

Close up of a perched Bald Eagle

Close up of a perched Bald Eagle

How big are Bald Eagles?

The Bald Eagle is an impressive bird both in flight and when perched. Their body length varies from about 2⅓ to 3 feet (0.7 - 0.9 m), with males being the smaller sex.

Despite their large size, Bald Eagles are surprisingly light. Females are significantly heavier than males, weighing up to nearly 14 pounds (6.3 kg) in some areas. However, adult mass can be as low as 6½ pounds (3 kg).

Bald Eagles have large, broad wings that end in a handful of exaggerated primary feathers. Their impressive wingspan can measure upwards of 6 ½ feet (2 m), making them a truly inspiring sight when soaring!

For more information on Bald Eagle size, check out this guide.

Bald Eagle coming in to land, around Kachemak Bay, Alaska

Bald Eagle coming in to land, around Kachemak Bay, Alaska

Calls & Sounds

The stirring cry most commonly associated with Bald Eagles in popular culture is, in fact, that of the Red-tailed Hawk. Read on to learn what a Bald Eagle really sounds like.

What sound does a Bald Eagle make?

America’s National Birds are better known for their great size and striking appearance than their vocal abilities.

Bald Eagles produce soft, ‘thin’ calls during aggressive displays, when defending their nest, or while mating. These calls are best described as squeals and are usually produced in a quick sequence.


Bald Eagles have a varied diet and are not too proud to scavenge or even steal from other birds and animals. Keep reading to learn more about their diet.

What do Bald Eagles eat?

Bald Eagles are carnivorous birds, but that does not mean they only hunt live prey. These birds rely heavily on carrion, especially fish. However, they can also hunt live fish, waterbirds, and small mammals.

Bald Eagles feed on the following prey animals:

  • Salmon, Shad, Catfish, and other fish species are eaten dead or alive
  • Bald Eagles often hunt water birds like geese, coots, and even herons
  • They occasionally hunt rabbits, ground squirrels, and other small mammals, and Bald Eagles will feed from larger animal carcasses like deer

What do baby Bald Eagles eat?

Baby Bald Eagles are fed by both parents, and the most important food source is fish. The adult birds tear small, bite-sized strips and present them directly to their chicks’ bills. In their second month, the young learn to use their own bills, although they rely on their parents for food for many weeks after fledging the nest.

Bald Eagle hunting for prey

Bald Eagle hunting for prey

Habitat & Distribution

Bald Eagles have a wide distribution, but you’re most likely to spot them near their favorite habitats. Read this section to learn more about their range and habitat preferences.

What is the habitat of a Bald Eagle?

As a sea eagle species, Bald Eagles are generally associated with water. They are usually seen in close proximity to rivers, swamps, lakes, and coastlines.

What is the range of a Bald Eagle?

Bald Eagles are endemic to North America. They can be seen virtually throughout the Lower 48 States and most of Alaska. These birds are also widespread in Canada, and low numbers visit and breed in the far north of Mexico.

Where do Bald Eagles live?

Bald Eagles spend most of their time perched on the ground, on trees, and at other vantage points where they can rest or look out for a meal. They also spend a significant amount of time (2-7% of the day) flying and soaring through the skies.

At night, these birds roost in large trees within a few miles of their hunting grounds. They often roost in groups during the non-breeding season when they are less territorial.

Bald Eagle screeching in a pine tree

Bald Eagle screeching in a pine tree

How rare are Bald Eagles?

The total population of Bald Eagles in the Contiguous United States was estimated at 316,700 individuals in 2020.

They can be plentiful in some areas, and large numbers occur in States like Florida, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Bald Eagles can be even more common in Canada, and the highest numbers breed in Alaska.

Where to see Bald Eagles in the UK

Bald Eagles are not native to the United Kingdom, although some specimens are kept in captivity. However, birdwatchers can spot the closely related White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) in Scotland and the Southeast coastline of England.

Alaska is the best place to see Bald Eagles

Alaska is the best place to see Bald Eagles

Lifespan & predation

Bald Eagles are relatively long-lived birds that enjoy their position as apex predators at the top of the food chain. However, they can succumb to a number of causes, from shooting to starvation. Keep reading to learn more about their longevity and conservation status.

How long do Bald Eagles live?

Bald Eagles can live well over thirty years in the wild, although their average lifespan is much shorter. Many young eagles perish within their first year, and the youngest chick from larger clutches often dies of starvation. However, individuals that reach adulthood have few predators and usually live for many years.

What are the predators of Bald Eagles?

Adult Bald Eagles have few predators, although sick or injured individuals are vulnerable to larger carnivores like coyotes. However, many smaller carnivores and birds prey on their eggs and chicks, including foxes, ravens, and gulls.

Are Bald Eagles protected?

Bald Eagles may have been removed from the Endangered Species List, but they are still protected in the United States by the following two federal laws:

  • Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918
  • Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act

Are Bald Eagles endangered?

Bald Eagles are no longer endangered. In fact, the species is listed as a ‘Least Concern’ species by the IUCN. They were officially removed from the endangered species list in 2007.

Juvenile Bald Eagle in flight - underside view, showing the interesting plumage

Juvenile Bald Eagle in flight - underside view, showing the interesting plumage

Nesting & Breeding

Bald Eagles begin breeding when they are four or five years old and raise just one brood each year. Read on for more fascinating facts about their nesting habits.

Where do Bald Eagles nest?

Bald Eagles nest in every state of the Continental United States. Pairs usually breed near aquatic and marine habitats that provide a rich food source for themselves and their chicks.

The nest is usually built in the branches of a large, sturdy tree, although Bald Eagles will nest on cliffs in areas without large trees.

What do Bald Eagle eggs look like?

Bald Eagles lay one to three large white eggs. The average egg measures about three inches (76 mm) long and two inches wide (51 mm) and weighs a little over four ounces (113 g).

Do Bald Eagles mate for life?

Bald Eagles will mate for life or until either partner passes away. Much time and effort go into raising their chicks, so it makes sense to stick with a successful partner rather than play the field. Some pairs remain together throughout the year, even outside the nesting season.

Nesting Bald Eagle with young eaglet in the nest

Nesting Bald Eagle with young eaglet in the nest


The mighty Bald Eagle was a somewhat controversial choice when first suggested as the United States National Bird. In fact, President Benjamin Franklin disagreed with its appointment, calling it ‘a bird of bad moral character’.

Are Bald Eagles aggressive?

Bald Eagles can be aggressive toward other birds, including members of their own species. Not only do Bald Eagles hunt waterbirds, but they will also use intimidation to steal a meal from other birds of prey like Ospreys and other fishing birds like Great Blue Herons.

Bald Eagles will fight amongst each other, and these conflicts can be fatal in some cases. Puncture wounds from their sharp talons can cause significant injuries, so most individuals avoid physical attacks.

Bald Eagles are rarely aggressive toward humans, and bird watchers can enjoy sightings of these majestic birds without fear. However, isolated attacks have been reported, and all wild animals should be given the respect they deserve.

A group of Bald Eagles, perched on the rocky by the water

A group of Bald Eagles, perched on the rocky by the water


Many birds migrate between overwintering and breeding grounds to take advantage of seasonal food sources and climatic conditions. Bald Eagles are not well known for their migratory behaviors, although they do, in fact, undertake seasonal movements.

Continue reading to learn about their migratory behaviors.

Do Bald Eagles migrate?

Bald Eagles are partial migrants, which means some migrate, while others remain in the same areas throughout the year. Individuals that breed in the north tend to migrate south to warmer states when their hunting grounds freeze over, and fishing becomes impossible.

Where food supplies are available throughout the year, they often stay put, although young birds are nomadic for their first few years, sometimes traveling thousands of miles before settling. Bald Eagles generally migrate during the day and usually travel alone.

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Quick Facts


Scientific name:

Haliaeetus leucocephalus


Kites, hawks and eagles



70cm to 90cm


165cm to 244cm


2kg to 6.3kg

Learn more about the Bald Eagle

Similar birds to a Bald Eagle

Other birds in the Kites, hawks and eagles family

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