Bald eagle: photo and description, habitat, nutrition and reproduction
Birds of prey are admired by some people for their power, dexterity, some kind of diabolical grace, while others have a sharp rejection for killing defenseless herbivores. However, their victims are more often old and sick animals. Thus, predators maintain a healthy and viable population of their prey.
One of these feathered “orderlies” is the bald eagle. Unfortunately, in Russia it can be seen only in some zoos and sometimes in the Far East. For permanent residence, this winged predator has chosen North America. Now the eagles are protected, so they feel quite at ease, being a wonderful decoration of nature. We have selected for you the most interesting facts about bald eagles.
From the name it is clear that these birds have white plumage on their heads.This is their main distinguishing feature from other eagles (shouter, white-tailed eagle). However, it appears only when the birds are 5 years old. Prior to this, their plumage is a uniform gray-brown color. Young bald eagles are similar to golden eagles, but slightly larger than them. The other differences are the plumage of the pinch (it is bare for eagles) and the length of the neck (for eagles it is shorter).
Speaking of what a bald eagle looks like, it should be noted that the adults living in the north of the continent (mainly in Alaska) are much larger than those living in the southern regions (closer to Mexico). Some experts believe this is a species difference, others say that the size depends only on environmental conditions.
A photo of a bald eagle (adult) shows us a graceful bird with perfect body proportions. White feathers are not only on her head, but also on the tail. Females differ from males in that they are much larger. The body length of this species of eagles can reach from 70 to 120 cm (from beak to the tip of the tail), and weight - up to 6.3 kg (for the northern ones) and up to 3.27 (for the southern ones).
The wingspan of the bald eagle can be from 1.8 to 2.3 meters.
His beak is hooked, very powerful, golden yellow. Over the eyes of the bird there is a growth. Because of this, it seems to us that the eagle is frowning all the time.
His paws are strong, his fingers reach a length of up to 15 cm. Each has a sharp curved claw. Tarsk on the paws bare, iris yellow.
Bald Eagle is a member of the Hawk family. His closest relative is the white-tailed eagle. Studies conducted by scientists show that these two species separated from other sea eagles about 28 million years ago. In the future, there was their territorial division. Whitetail spread in northern Europe, and the white-headed chose a house overseas. The most ancient remains of these birds are found in the caves of Colorado. Scientists have determined that they are about 780 thousand years old. The Indians of America still regard this bird as the herald of the gods. Earlier in the ritual headdress of the priests were necessarily present feathers bald eagle. Since these birds were worshiped and practically not exterminated, their populations numbered hundreds of thousands of individuals. But a white man came to the lands of America, and everything changed.
On the verge of extinction
They began to exterminate the eagles for the sake of meat and just so that they did not prevent the settlers from living. On the continent started land development, actively engaged in agriculture. Deforestation and construction of cities have significantly reduced the habitat of sea eagles, and chemicals used in agricultural products have a negative impact on the health of birds, whose eggs have become very fragile. Now they could not even bear the weight of the female incubating them and burst.
Such times came when on the whole continent ornithologists counted only 487 pairs. Scientists have raised the alarm. As a result, it was forbidden to use in agricultural DDT - a chemical from which birds suffered the most. In 1940, a law was passed in the United States, according to which it is impossible not only to shoot bald eagles (for any purpose), but also to keep them in captivity (except for reserves), and also to use any parts of their bodies, including feathers. An exception is made only for the ritual rites of the Indians, but to shoot each eagle you need to buy a license. Now these birds in the world, there are more than 115 thousand.
Unfortunately, in our country, these beautiful birds are only a “span”. Sometimes they can be seen in the Far East.A detailed description of the bald eagles was made at the end of the XVIII century by Sven Vaksel, who participated in the Bering expedition. The officer wrote that during wintering they had to eat these birds. At the end of the 19th century, an American explorer discovered bald eagles on Bering Island, where birds even bred. But already in the twentieth century, they were noticed only occasionally, when they accidentally flew here from Alaska. The last mention of bald eagles in Russia dates back to 1993. Then they were seen on the lake Kuril. In captivity, these birds live in zoos in Moscow and Ivanovo.
In nature, this species of eagles lives in territories from Alaska to the northern states of Mexico. Small groups are seen in Baja California and Rhode Island. During migration, rare zalety are observed in Bermuda, in Greenland, on the Virgin Islands, in Belize, and in Puerto Rico.
In winter, bald eagles can migrate from their habitat to warmer regions. This happens only if the reservoirs are covered with ice. If the water remains open, that is, there is access to the fish, the birds overwinter. They are not afraid of Morozov, but the prospect of starving to death does not suit them.
Bald eagles live under favorable conditions to 15-20 years. They become sexually mature at 5 years of age. At the same time, the birds acquire a distinctive feather attire. Couples they form for life. Only the death of a spouse can be the reason for finding a new family happiness. It is interesting to watch the games of soaring birds. Sitting on the branches, they gently caress each other's beaks. In flight, their favorite fun is to grapple with their paws and begin to fall down, and then uncouple and fly apart in different directions. Having chosen a partner, the birds start building a nest.
People vainly destroyed bald eagles for allegedly stealing chickens. Fearing a person and settling away from him is probably transmitted to eagles at the genetic level. Their nests are extremely rarely found at a distance of 1.2-1.5 km from residential buildings. More often, they prefer to settle no closer than 2-3 km from people, but not further than 3-5 km from the reservoir.
House bald eagles build themselves, as they say, forever. One nest can serve birds for over 30 years. At the same time, they are building several “apartments” nearby (in case of unforeseen situations with the main dwelling).
Both female and male take part in the construction of the house. In the course are branches, leaves of corn, moss, grass. The spouse basically brings construction material, and the hostess carefully fastens it with blade of grass. Bald eagles can finish their mansions for many years. As a result, their structures reach impressive sizes. So, a nest was found with a diameter of 2.9 meters and a height of 6 meters. According to rough estimates, his weight could be two tons. Thanks to this construction bald eagles and hit the Guinness Book of Records.
Of course, it is comfortable for chicks to grow up in such nests, but the branches of the trees often do not withstand the weight of the buildings and break off.
The female lays between one and three eggs. Very rarely there are four of them. If the brickwork dies, it is able to do one more this year. Eggs of bald eagles are pure white, without specks and strokes. Their maximum size is 63x85 mm. Hatching lasts 35 days. Since the female lays them at intervals, the chicks are not born on the same day. Often the eldest take food from the youngest, as a result of which they die from hunger.
Very helpless chicks are born in a formidable bald eagle. The photo shows them in all its glory.The little body of the babies is covered with grayish down, the head is round, the eyes and beak are gray. Until they reach the age of 3 months, one of the parents is constantly present in the nest, although it is mostly the female that incubates the babies. Further, father and mother begin to leave their young for some time alone. At five weeks, babies are already selected from the nest. During this period, they may fall to the ground. If there are no predators nearby, they quietly live in the grass for several weeks, after which they fly up to a tree. Having learned to fly, young eagles are still with their parents until 11 weeks, and then fly away to begin to live independently.
Where a bald eagle lives, there must necessarily be a large body of water, because their main food is fish. These birds do not dive for their prey. Having noticed the victim from a height, they fall down like a stone, grab the fish with claws and immediately fly up into the sky. At the same time, only a few feathers of the eagles can get wet. They develop speeds when falling to 160 km / h, so there is no chance for the fish to escape. In the diet of bald eagles, sockeye salmon, pink salmon, chinook salmon, herring, trout, mullet are any fish they are able to raise and bring to the place of their meal. They do not hunt for a trifle, as it slips between their fingers.Live fish larger than 3-4 kg of white-headed predators are also not interested.
Fry they can peck in shallow water. A large fish is eaten in the form of carrion when its waves are thrown onto the shore.
Often these birds do not bother to catch prey, but take it away from smaller birds - crows, osprey, red-tailed buzzards. If during the “racketeering” a hapless hunter does not have time to escape or tries to resist, he can also become a dinner for the feathered gangster.
Answering the question of what a bald eagle eats, you need to mention other types of food, as it loves not only fish. These winged predators add to their diet other birds - geese, gulls, mallards, coots, pelicans, cranes, and many others. Catch them on the fly or when they are busy hunting and lose their vigilance. Do not disdain bald eagles chicks and eggs. Particularly affected by birds living in colonies. The rapid fall of the eagle from the height to the nest, as a rule, ends for the hunter with success.
These predators rarely hunt animals, therefore such a food makes up a small percentage in their diet.Their prey becomes hares, raccoons, squirrels, gophers, rats, beavers, turtles. Cases of hunting of bald eagles on sea lions, seals and sea otters have been recorded.
Carrion, they also do not disdain. Very rarely can they be found in landfills in search of any food.
Adult birds can ward off coyotes, foxes, and vultures. Young white-headed predators, as a rule, do not clash with these animals.
Bald eagle is a very cautious bird. He tries to settle in places inaccessible to other predators. Most often it is a tall living tree with a spreading crown. If there is no one nearby, they settle on inaccessible rocks. In isolated cases, the nests of eagles on the pillars of the high-voltage network are observed. These birds build their homes only in a place from which there is a good view, so it is difficult to get close to them.
It is extremely rare for their clutches to be ruined by a Virginian owl, raccoon-raccoon or arctic fox. Terrestrial predators become dangerous only if the nest settles on the ground.
Bald eagle became the national symbol of the United States in 1782, when the Continental Congress voted to depict the Great Seal. On it, a feathered handsome man holds in his beak a ribbon with the inscription "Out of many - one."In his left paw he has a branch of olive, in his right - 13 arrows. Not all US presidents favored bald eagles. So, he was very disliked by Franklin. Until 1953, in Alaska, they even gave a reward for a dead feathered predator.
Finally, John Kennedy became president, bringing many sensible ideas to life. It was he who said that the world would not forgive the Americans if bald eagles would disappear as a species.
Now the image of these birds can be seen on the seals and banners, on emblems and banknotes. The bald eagle is on the emblem of American Airlines, on a 25-cent coin, on the emblem of the Apollo 11, on the Wand of the House of Representatives and on many other state attributes.