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Bald Eagle Notecard



Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Found only in North America, the Bald Eagle is a magnificent, awe-inspiring bird of prey. Standing three feet tall and weighing over ten pounds, they soar on wings that spread to seven feet wide. Over 7000 feathers cover their body.  Adults show a striking white head and tail, but mottled-brown juveniles can be confused with Golden Eagles.

Belonging to the order of Sea Eagles, Bald Eagles are most often found near large bodies of water where they can feast on fresh fish.  Each breeding pair will build a massive nest of sticks in the crotch of a tree, or on a cliff, to be used year after year.  They mate for life and share the duties of incubating eggs, catching food and protecting their young.  Pairs stay together throughout the year near their nesting territory, but sometimes in harsh weather they are forced to move south and will gather in large numbers to roost and feed by open water.

Listed as an Endangered Species in the 1960s, their populations slowly recovered from less than 400 nesting pairs to over 10,000 pairs in 2010. Laws protecting nests and feathers, the 1983 ban of the use of DDT, education, and reintroduction programs all helped bring the Bald Eagle back from the brink of extinction.

Eagles have long been considered powerful omens.  Pacific Coast tribes carved them into their totem poles as a symbol of strength, friendship and prestige.  An eagle perched on top of the Iroquois Tree of Peace symbolizes unity among the tribes of the Haudenosaunee.  Many people hold Bald Eagles as sacred, an embodiment of the Divine. They are masters of the Sky-World who inspire our spirits to soar.

For all that the Bald Eagle represents, the fact remains that they need a plentiful food source and a secluded nesting place to survive in the wild.  In 1782 this raptor was chosen as our national symbol.  As a nation who has honored the Bald Eagle as an emblem of freedom, can we give them the clean water and space that they need?

artwork by Michael DiGiorgio © 2012

text by Kara Jean Hagedorn