How Did the Bald Eagle Get Its Name?
Despite its name, the bald eagle is not bald – its head is covered with white feathers. The rest of its body is dark brown. One idea of how the bald eagle got its name is that its white head makes it look bald. The correct explanation is that the bald eagle was named at a time when the word “bald” meant “white.”
When early colonists saw this large, majestic bird for the first time, they called it “baldheaded,” meaning that it was white-headed. Only fully grown birds have the white head and tail that make the bald eagle so striking. Young birds are dark brown.
Bald eagles are large birds of prey native to North America. Since 1782, the bald eagle has been the United States’ national emblem and mascot.
Bald eagles have a massive wingspread of about 7 feet (2.13 meters), according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Their bodies are much smaller, though, at only 34 to 43 inches (86 to 109 centimeters). Normally, bald eagles weigh 6.5 to 14 pounds (3 to 6.5 kilograms).
The bald eagle is found only in North America. For the most part, bald eagles live in forests that are near rivers, lakes, reservoirs, marshes and coasts. Some also live near fish processing plants, dumps and other areas where they can find food.
Bald eagles are typically solitary creatures. When there is abundant food, though, they may gather with others in groups of up to 400, according to the Michigan University Museum of Zoology.
Bald eagles are “fish eagles.” They are in this classification because their main food source is fish. They will also eat smaller birds, other bird’s eggs and small animals like rabbits, reptiles, amphibians and crabs. Since bald eagles only eat meat, this makes them carnivores.
Bald eagles are thought to be monogamous. This means that once the birds find a mate, they will continue to only mate with each other for the rest of their lives. A bald eagle will find another mate only if it is widowed.
Bald eagles make large nests from sticks, grass, feathers, moss and cornstalks to accommodate their eggs. The largest bald eagle nest on record was found in St. Petersburg, Florida. It was 9.5 feet (2.9 meters) in diameter and 20 feet (6.1 m) deep, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. It was estimated to weigh 2 metric tons (4,409 lbs.).
In the nest, the female bald eagle will lay one to three eggs and will incubate the eggs for 34 to 36 days. When they hatch, the chicks are covered in light-gray down.
Young bald eagles spend their first four years exploring and can fly hundreds of miles per day. Bald eagles can live up to 28 years in the wild and 36 years in captivity.