written by: Atula Gupta•edited by: Donna Cosmato•updated: 11/26/2010
The Bald eagle is the national bird and the symbol of United States of America. Read on to know some awesome facts about the bald eagle that you might not have known before.
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The Amazing American Eagle
Bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) are the symbol of United States of America. They are the only birds found in all fifty states and are also known as the American eagles, fishing eagles, Washington eagles and white-headed eagles. Here are more awesome facts about the bald eagle.
Not really Bald – The name bald eagle leads many to think that these eagles are bald but that is not the case. Incidentally, the name comes from ‘piebald’ which means spotty or patchy. They have white colored feathers on the head while the rest of the body is black or brown, which is why they appear to be bald. ‘Balde’ an ancient English term that means white, and the word ‘bald’ is derived from it.
Without Vocal Cords – The loud screeching sound you might hear this eagle make is not coming from its vocal cords because it does not have any. The sound actually happens when air passes through the bones of their necks at the point where the windpipe is separated going into the lungs. The sound is made between couples or as a warning to predators.
Mates for Life – Bald Eagles live like married couples and mate for life. The female lays approximately two eggs every year; this is called "brood." It is only when one of the eagles dies that the other looks for another mate. The females of the species are larger than males with their average height being 35 to 37 inches. The males are between 30 to 34 inches.
One Mighty Nest – If you plan to look for a bald eagle nest, you will have to climb at least 75 feet above the ground to find one! The eagles build a single nest that is truly a fruit of labor, and it is always located at a place high above the ground like on a tree top or higher. Sometimes, it may take more than six weeks for the eagles to build the nest for the first time, but once it has been made, they keep adding more twigs and green grass every year.
It is believed that the largest nest ever built by the bald eagle was 9.5 ft (3 m) wide and 20 ft (6 m) high. It weighed more than two tons! (Source: National Geographic)
Feathers same as Human Nails – Did you know that the beaks and feathers of the eagle are made up of the same material - called keratin - that makes up human hair and nails?There are approximately 7000 feathers on an eagle’s body.
Far sighted – A bald eagle can see four to seven times better than a normal human being and that is why people with good eye sight are sometimes said to have eagle eyes. Because they live near the sea and are always looking for fish to eat, their sight enables them to see as far as one mile and dive into the water for food. Some people are amazed at how easily they see and catch a fish under the water. It is an extremely difficult feat because the fish are usually darker on top and hence difficult to locate from above. The bald eagle not only sees it from above, but from several feet above the water. Eagles also have two centers of focus, called foveae, that allows them to see in the front and on the sides at the same time.
Favorite Food – A bald eagle can carry up to four pounds of food in its mouth and fly. These sea eagles mostly prefer fish but also devour small snakes and birds or even dead carcass. Sometimes, they eat rats and other rodents.
Soaring High – Bald eagles are not fast flyers like raptors but are definitely smart flyers. The rising current of warm air generated by terrains like mountains or valley patches are used judiciously by them to soar long distances and conserve energy. These updrafts are called as thermals, and they climb high in a thermal, glide down until they find another thermal, and keep repeating the process until they reach their destination. They can actually fly at about 10,000 feet above ground. A group of eagles flying this way and migrating is called a kettle of eagles. They can fly at 30 miles per hour and dive at about 100 miles per hour.
These are some of the most awesome facts about the bald eagle.