Bald Eagle



1) Bald Eagles winter at Lake Success from mid-November through mid-February. On January 15, 2013, the US Army Corps of Engineers conducted a Bald Eagle survey and counted four Bald Eagles wintering on Lake Success, two adult and two immature birds. In Tulare County, Bald Eagles can also be seen at Bravo Lake in Woodlake, and Kaweah Lake near Three Rivers. Although Bald Eagles have yet to nest at any of these lakes, they do nest in Tulare County at a lake in the high Sierras.

2) Female Bald Eagles may weigh 14 pounds and have a wingspan of 7 ½ feet! Male eagles are smaller, weighing as much as 10 pounds and have a wingspan of 6 feet.  Bald Eagles are mostly dark brown until they are four to five years old and acquire their characteristic white head and white tail adult plumage.

3) Bald Eagles live near rivers, lakes, and marshes where they can find fish, their staple food. Because they mainly eat fish, only the tops of the bald eagle’s legs

have feathers, while the legs of golden eagles are feathered all the way down.

Bald Eagles will also feed on waterfowl, turtles, rabbits, snakes, and other small animals and carrion.  They are skilled at kleptoparasitism, stealing prey from Ospreys, hawks, and falcons. In winter, the birds congregate near open water in tall trees for spotting prey.

4) Bald Eagles mate for life, choosing the tops of large trees to build nests, which they typically use and enlarge each year. Nests may reach 10 feet across and weigh a half-ton.  Bald Eagles may live 15 to 25 years in the wild, longer in captivity. Breeding Bald Eagles typically lay one to three eggs once a year, and they hatch after about 35 days. The young eagles are flying within three months and are on their own about a month later.

5) America adopted the Bald Eagle as the national symbol in 1782.  Ben Franklin wished that “ the Bald Eagle had not been chosen as the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. Too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him, like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America... He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on."

6) Forty-years ago, our national symbol was in danger of extinction throughout most of its range. Shortly after World War II, DDT was hailed as a new pesticide to control mosquitoes and other insects. However, DDT and its residues washed into nearby waterways, where aquatic plants and fish absorbed it. Bald eagles were poisoned with DDT when they ate the contaminated fish. This chemical interfered with the ability of the birds to produce strong eggshells. As a result, their eggs had shells so thin that they often broke during incubation or otherwise failed to hatch. DDT also affected other species such as peregrine falcons and brown pelicans.

In addition to the adverse effects of DDT, some bald eagles have died from lead poisoning after feeding on waterfowl containing lead shot as a result of hunting.

7) By 1963, with only 417 nesting pairs of bald eagles remaining, the species was in danger of extinction. As the dangers of DDT became known due to the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, the Environmental Protection Agency took the historic and controversial step in 1972 of banning the use of DDT in the United States, which was the first step on the road to recovery for the bald eagle. In 1967, the Secretary of Interior listed southern Bald Eagles under the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966. Following enactment of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Service listed the species in 1978 as endangered throughout the lower 48 states, except in Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin where it was designated as threatened. In July 1995, the Service announced that bald eagles in the lower 48 states had recovered to the point where those populations previously considered endangered were now considered threatened. Based on the most recent population figures, the Service estimates that there are at least 9,789 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the contiguous United

States. Bald eagles have staged a remarkable population rebound and have recovered to the point that they no longer need the protection of the Endangered Species Act.  On August 9, 2007, the bald eagle was removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species. The two main factors that led to the recovery of the bald eagle were the banning of the pesticide DDT and habitat protection afforded by the Endangered Species Act for nesting sites and important feeding and roost sites. The Bald Eagle is an Endangered Species Act success story.




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