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Route 1 Millstone River Bridge Replacement

Bald Eagle Facts

The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), national bird of the United States (US), is a large raptor or bird of prey. The Bald Eagle's scientific name signifies a sea (halo) eagle (aeetos) with a white (leukos) head (cephalo). At one time, the word "bald" meant "white", not hairless. Adults have a brown body with a white head and tail. Immature Bald Eagles have a dark head and tail until around five years of age when they acquire their white feathers. Bald Eagles grow to 28-38 inches, have a wingspan of 80 inches (nearly seven feet), weigh between 10-14 pounds and live to an average of 15-20 years.

Bald Eagles are the only eagle unique to North America found from Alaska and Canada to northern Mexico. About half the world's 70,000 bald eagles live in Alaska. Combined with British Columbia's population of about 20,000, the northwest coast of North America is by far the greatest stronghold for Bald Eagles. They flourish here in part because of the salmon; an important food source for all Bald Eagles.
a Bald Eagle flies along the coastline of Homer, Alaska photo
A Bald Eagle flies along the coastline of Homer, Alaska.
(Image by: Nick Hutton)

Bald Eagles have been making a comback after many years of decline, partly due to the ban of Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane (DDT) and other agricultural pesticides in the US in 1972 and the protection offered to the birds by the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Until 1995, the Bald Eagle had been listed as "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act in 43 of the 48 lower states and listed as "threatened" in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Washington and Oregon. In July 1995, the US Fish and Wildlife Service upgraded the status of Bald Eagles in the lower 48 states to threatened.

On June 28, 2007 the US Department of Interior took the American Bald Eagle off the Endangered Species List. It is still protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Bald Eagle Protection Act.

In New Jersey, only a single pair of nesting Bald Eagles was recorded in 1985. In 2008, there were 69 pairs with 50 nests that produced 85 young. Bald Eagles mate for life, but when one dies, the survivor will not hesitate to accept a new mate.

Eagles lay from one to three eggs that are off-white or buff color and speckled, about the size of a goose egg. The eggs are incubated for 35 days. Although the female spends most of the time on the nest both to keep the eggs warm and protect them from potential predators, incubation is shared by both parents.

When the eaglets are ready to hatch, they break through the shell using their egg tooth, a pointed bump on the top of their beak. This can take from 12-48 hours after the first break in the shell. Newly hatched eaglets are covered in a grayish-white down and their eyes are partially closed.

Eaglets grow quickly, adding a full pound of body weight every four or five days. At three weeks, the eaglet is about 12 inches tall with a beak and feet that are almost the size of an adult. By six weeks, the eaglet is nearly the size of its parents.

At about 11 or 12 weeks, the eaglets are ready to leave the nest but stay close by for another six to nine weeks to practice their ability to fly and hunt.

From the time the parents build the nest until the time their offspring are on their own takes about 20 weeks. During the nesting cycle, the parents remain within one to two miles of the nest.

One of the Bald Eagles
soars above the nest.

(Image by: Kathy Clark, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection)
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  Last Updated:  January 14, 2010