NPS Park Ranger

Bald Eagles

bald eagle

Bald Eagle Facts

Eagles are in a group of birds called raptors. A raptor hunts other animals for food. The hunted animal is called prey.

  • Their wingspan - the distance from the tip of one wing to the other - can be eight feet!
  • Since fish is a favorite food, many bald eagles live near water.
  • The bald eagle is one of only two kinds of eagles in all of the United States. The other is the golden eagle.
  • Bald eagles can see eight times better than we can! Good eyesight helps them find food.
  • Bald eagles build huge nests called aeries. They may use it each year. One nest weighed two tons.
  • Their strong claws are called talons. They have a sharp spike on each toe. It helps them hold onto slippery fish.
  • Bald eagles aren't really bald. Their name comes from an old English word "balde." It means white. Adult birds have white heads.
  • They can dive at speeds of fifty m.p.h. to catch prey.

Endangered animals are those in danger of disappearing from the world forever. When an animal disappears forever it becomes extinct. Sometimes people have caused this to happen. They have killed animals and destroyed their homes. They have also polluted the water and air.

All endangered animals in the United States are protected. It is against the law to disturb or kill them.

The bald eagle was removed from the federal endangered list in 1994. In Maine, however, the bald eagle is still considered endangered. Bald eagles live in Acadia National Park, and nest in and migrate to 70 other national parks as well. In Acadia, they nest on the Porcupine Islands and other islands in Frenchman Bay. Everywhere, they need protected, quiet places to live.

Why are bald eagles endangered?

People took away the eagles' home, or habitat. They cut down trees that eagles need for nests. Some people have shot the birds.

Most farmers use chemicals to kill insects on crops. These chemicals wash into rivers and get into fish. Eagles ate the fish and got the chemicals too.

In the 1950s and '60s, many farmers used a harmful chemical called DDT. They used it because it worked well to kill insects. They didn't know then that it would also eventually kill eagles and other birds. Eagles with DDT in their bodies laid eggs with thin shells. The thin eggs were crushed when the parents sat on them. Few baby eagles were born.

What has been done?

Eagles are protected by laws. If people disturb or kill them, they will be punished. Protected places have been set aside for eagles and other wildlife. They are called refuges. DDT can no longer be used in the United States. These steps have helped the bald eagle. The number of bald eagles is slowly increasing. There are about 100 nesting pairs in Maine.

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