Bald Eagle

Haliaeetus leucocephalus

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Photo of bald eagle soaring
In flight, a mature bald eagle is identified by its dark brown body with white head and tail.
Noppadol Paothong
Species of Conservation Concern
Family

Accipitridae (hawks and eagles) in the order Falconiformes

Description

Mature bald eagles have a dark brown body with white head and tail. The large, hooked bill, strong talons, and irises of the eyes are yellow. Females are larger than males, but otherwise the sexes look alike. In flight, bald eagles soar on rising warm air currents on flattened wings (not holding them V-shaped). Juveniles are all brown, with white speckles. Voice is a series of chirps or a loud screaming whistle.

Size

Length: 36 inches (tip of bill to tip of tail); wingspan: 84 inches.

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Photo of bald eagle perched on a branch
Bald Eagle Perched
A mature bald eagle is unmistakable with its dark brown body, yellow bill, and white head and tail.

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Photo of bald eagle skimming over water, feet stretched
Bald Eagle Skimming Over Water
Bald eagles are usually observed near lakes, rivers, and marshes as they forage for fish or carrion.

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Photo of immature bald eagle perched on a branch
Bald Eagle (Immature)
Young bald eagles are nomadic and acquire adult plumage at about age 5.

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Photo of two juvenile bald eagles in nest
Bald Eagle Nest
A bald eagle nest is large and can be 13 feet deep and 8 feet across.

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Photo of bald eagle flapping over water
Bald Eagle Flapping
The bald eagle’s return to the Lower 48 is a conservation success story.

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bald eagle face looking head on into the camera
Bald Eagle Portrait
Bald eagles have white heads, large forward-looking eyes and hooked yellow beaks.

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A bald eagle flies over the Mississippi River
Bald Eagle Flying
A bald eagle takes flight early in the morning searching for fish along the Mississippi River in Clarksville, Mo.

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American Bald Eagle
American Bald Eagle

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Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle
A bald eagle takes flight early in the morning, searching for fish along the Mississippi River in Clarksville, Mo.

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Video of bald eagles in the wild.

Bald Eagle

bald eagle face looking head on into the camera
The bald eagle's high-pitched, shrieking whistle alarms prey-sized birds and animals.

Eagle at Eagle Bluff CA

Eagle at Eagle Bluff CA
Eagle at Eagle Bluff CA
Eagle Soaring High
Habitat and conservation

Bald eagles are usually observed near lakes, rivers, and marshes as they forage for fish or carrion. The bald eagle’s return to the Lower 48 is a conservation success story: Although historically about 20,000 pairs nested in the United States, by the 1950s only about 3,000 pairs were nesting. Today, over 10,000 pairs nest in the United States annually, including about 200 in our state, as of 2010.

Foods

Fish and carrion make up most of the diet.

image of Bald Eagle Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Bald eagles are usually observed statewide near lakes, rivers, and marshes, particularly during the winter.

Status

Uncommon migrant. Though they have made a dramatic comeback on our continent, their presence is still vulnerable within our state, and they remain a Species of Conservation Concern.

Life cycle

Bald eagles reach maturity at age 4 or 5, and usually breed near where they were born. They generally mate for life, but if one of the pair disappears or dies, the survivor finds another mate. Courtship includes special calls and flight displays. The nest is large and can be 13 feet deep and 8 feet across. A pair produces 1–3 eggs annually, but rarely do all three chicks reach maturity.

Human connections

As a cherished U.S. national symbol, the bald eagle’s value is hard to estimate. In some Native American cultures, bald eagles are held sacred, and their feathers are important symbols.

Ecosystem connections

Bald eagles are top predators, particularly of fish, as well as important scavengers.