Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.
The majestic eagle. With its powerful and graceful wings, it can soar through the sky and cause traffic to stop on the side of a road for anything but modest picture. It is a symbol of power, strength, and thievery. Surprised? You’ll be interested to know that there are many things that you might not know about the eagle.
The Bald Eagle
Let’s first begin with the most well-known and recognized “Bald” eagle. I use quotations around “bald” for a very good reason. Get a close up of the bird and you realize it is anything but bald. The white crown (cap) that it wears shines in the sunlight and lets everyone know that it is the Bald Eagle. When Europeans first come to North America and saw this creature, the word “bald” meant to them “white”. Thus giving us our Bald Eagle. It reminded them of their sea eagles back home.
The bald eagle is native only to North America and not found anywhere else in the world. Of the estimated 70,000 that currently fly our skies, half of them reside in Alaska. The bald eagle prefers to be near bodies of water since fish is their primary and preferred food source. Alaska is known for its large coastline and for having few people. This fits our feathered friend’s life just fine. The more people, the less animals and territory for the eagle. That is why over the years since the European invasion the numbers of bald eagles declined so rapidly.
In the early twentieth century, it began to be noticed how less often the eagle was being spotted flying high above over our lakes and rivers. After numerous studies it was discovered that there were just a few thousand left to cover the entire are of Canada, America, and Mexico. That is not leaving much chance of spotting an eagle. Which does lead to why we are so fascinated when we do see one. In 1967 our bald was placed on the endangered list. Now, it was protected. At that time there were about 500 mating pairs known to researchers. In just a few years in 1995 it was placed at threatened status. Then in 2007 it was removed from the endangered list. It was still protected but researchers could see huge results. From 500 mating pairs to about 5,000 in just a few decades. That is progress.
Protection continues under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 which prohibits not only killing of the birds, but any kind of contact with them including even possessing a fallen feather. Unfortunately, many foolish people were climbing into nests and harassing the birds which interfered with their survival. The only exceptions to this act were given to the Native Americans but only if their culture had already used eagles in many of their customs and ceremonies. They are still not allowed to kill but they can possess the feathers and the talons for ceremonial purposes only. If the Native Americans respected this stewardship of the eagles like their ancestors did, there would be no harassing of the bird since deep respect and honor of nature accompanied their traditions.
The eagle has proven itself to be resilient. They can live up to 30 years in the wild and they mate for life. They are dedicated to their mate. But if tragedy should strike, they know that they need to keep on so another mate is chosen without hesitation.
The males and females pretty much look identical. But the females get the upper-hand by being about 25% larger than their mates. I guess we don’t have to wonder who does the dishes in that household. When they go out on their own, they choose trees high up in the sky that can support a lot of weight. This is not because they eat a lot of fish, but because they like to make home roomy as the years go by. When a home chosen and constructed, there is no thoughts of moving on up, so to speak. They use the same next year after year. If man or nature removes their tree, another one in the same neighborhood is chosen. The nests can weigh as much as 2 tons (yes, I said “tons”) and be 9 feet wide. The depths of these nests with years of additions can get as high as 15 feet. Some have been documented to be even deeper.
Once a home is chosen, a mate is looked for. The mating of the eagles can be awesome to watch and at the same time frightful. They begin their courtship up in the sky with their talons outstretched. I might as well stop trying to describe their intricate mating and let a master tell it.
The Dalliance of the Eagles
Skirting the river road, (my forenoon walk, my rest,)
Skyward in air a sudden muffled sound, the dalliance of the eagles,
The rushing amorous contact high in space together,
The clinching interlocking claws, a living, fierce, gyrating wheel,
Four beating wings, two beaks, a swirling mass tight grappling,
In tumbling turning clustering loops, straight downward falling,
Till o'er the river pois'd, the twain yet one, a moment's lull,
A motionless still balance in the air, then parting, talons losing,
Upward again on slow-firm pinions slanting, their separate divorce flight,
She hers, he his, pursuing.
by Walt Whitman
After 35 days, the result is of young eagles to carry on their legacy. When the little ones break out of their shells both parents share in the raising of the young. They take turns going out and hunting for food while the other one stays to guard the next from would be predators. The young could be rather surprising to behold at first because they lack the renown white head. They are brown with a little white on their bodies, but not until they reach sexual maturity at age 5 do they show their “bald” side.
At full maturity they can be 3 feet tall with a wingspan of around eight feet. The body weight averages 13 pounds but some have been documented to be bigger. The northern eagles tend to be larger than their southern relatives. The immense size and their ferocious looks have laid the foundation for many of the myths that have spread about eagles. When we moved to Northern Wisconsin, I was amazed at the number of eagles that I could see sitting in my own yard or just driving to the store. I had a huge laugh (and kicked myself for not having a camera) when I drove by a lake to see the guys ice fishing. A few yards away was an extremely large eagle waiting to see what they brought up. Now the bird would not have attacked them for the fish but I’m sure he was hoping they would drop it. Overall, eagles prefer to avoid people and therefore build their homes away from them if possible and rarely hunt near large amounts of human activity. All of our neighbors and relatives have warned us about letting our cats or our dog. The eagles will take them away is we’re not careful. Sorry to burst everyone’s bubble but the odds are pretty slim that that will happen. The maximum amount of cargo an eagle can carry is 4 or 5 pounds and that is only if it acquired it at full speed. The distance it would be able to go would be short. To drop down and pick up prey, the eagle chooses animals less than 2 pounds so that they can lift easier and make it to their nest. The conclusion would be that most house pets would be safe from the mighty eagle. They prefer fish or carrion (already dead meat) to going around kidnapping pets.
I mentioned at the beginning of all this about them being thieves. Eagles are part of the raptor family which includes hawks, vultures, falcons, and owls. They are hunters, but at times they tend to be a little lazy and crooked. It is not uncommon for an eagle to sit in high reaches of the trees around a large body of water and watch as other birds swoop down attempting to catch an unsuspecting fish. As soon as one does, the eagle grins slightly and pushing forcefully into the air aiming at the successful hunter. With a few bumps and sharp talons, the eagle makes off with the prize leaving the other defeated and hungry. They won’t let the young of other birds in their 15 mile territory pass by either which is why you might see a few black birds chasing the massive eagle away from their nests.
In 1782 the bald eagle was chosen to be the national bird of the new country of the United States of America. It was chosen for its majestic and solid stance. It was regal. It was strong. And according to Benjamin Franklin and others it was a thief and should not even be considered to represent the country. He wanted the noble turkey who was honorable, smart, and beautiful to be the emblem. Thanksgiving Day would be a little different today if Franklin won the day. Instead it is the bald eagle that is on the official emblem of the United States.
The Golden Eagle
Most people think of the bald eagle when they hear “eagle”. But they are just a small part of the eagle family. We cannot leave out the Golden Eagle. No, they don’t wear gold or shine in the bright sunlight, but the golden eagle is just as majestic. At first glance they look like the young immature bald eagles and have commonly been mistaken for them. But upon closer look at the legs you see more plumage of the golden eagles while the bald eagles go bare legged.
Golden eagles can be found in the entire Northern Hemisphere. You won’t find them congregating around the lakes and rivers, but you will find them in the hills, cliffs and prairies. They prefer a banquet of mice, prairie dogs and other small critters. Fish are not on the menu.
Golden ones can grow to 3 feet high and get wingspans of 7 feet. On average they can weigh 15 pounds and can keep neck to neck with their bald relatives on cargo weight. During their 20 years life they build their homes in the rocky cliffs where they can see the terrain below them for any small movement. They are the primary eagle that is used in falconry due their “eagle” eyes.
These majestic birds have also been honored by various native tribes and today that prestige is carried by Germany, Austria, Mexico, and Kazakhstan as their national bird. You can also find the golden eagle on many official emblems of many other countries throughout the northern hemisphere.
The Harpy Eagle
Before we finish our journey through the life of an eagle, let’s take a look at the largest and the most powerful eagle on earth, the Harpy Eagle.
This immense eagle can be found in the tropical regions of Central and South America. They can grow up to 4 feet high and weigh 20 pounds. The wingspan and reach more than 6 ½ feet. Small and not-so-small critters need to be very wary as they go about their day.
BA on March 19, 2020:
I have a couple starting to appear in my back yard occasionally. AMAZING
LoveMcGrace on May 19, 2014:
Too bad this site/hub failed to feature or even just mention the critically endangered Great Philippine Eagle -- the most beautiful, powerful, and majestic eagle of them all. Charles Lindbergh called them the " world's noblest flier".
Isaac Dan on April 24, 2014:
This bird is something else! I love the information about it. I believe God wants us to live the eagle because he likens us to it.
justin on December 20, 2013:
Tha harpy eagle is not the largest and most powerful of all eagles i think its safer to say one of the largest and most powerful of all eagles.
victor omondi on October 16, 2013:
That is really motivating and encouraging piece of literature. I am seriously an eagle from today
Natasha kinkel on February 27, 2013:
This website has so many facts about eagles.It is cool
jade on February 27, 2013:
this webiste is very good it got good facts
Ian D Hetri from Papua New Guinea on October 20, 2012:
Great presentation. I also wrote a hub about 7 Leadership Characteristics about Eagles Man should Learn from. Eagle just fascinate me and I keep studying this bird and get inspired by them.
amrutha a girl on August 11, 2012:
zxcvbnmkjhgfdsawwerttyiopp on April 27, 2012:
I like them
ijezie emmanuel on April 15, 2012:
i must say u did a wonderful job,bringing these facts together.keep up d good work!
Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on April 10, 2012:
Voted up and awesome. You took great care and pains to do this article. Good job from a former rehabber that worked with eagles. I believe my "Is It Karma?" might interest you.
unknown on April 04, 2012:
ulyssesggb on April 02, 2012:
eagles are awesome and cool!!!!!!!!!!!:)
patoz on March 24, 2012:
Quite informative. i've never seen one but my interest is piqued
Ogechi Maduforo. on March 20, 2012:
Beautiful illustration.No wonder God uses the eagle in His word to depict excellence in the live of a children.The eagle experience is a possibility in the life of every born again child of God via the Holy Spirit.
coby on March 16, 2012:
reeza on March 11, 2012:
great creatures, great information and videos;thanks
Asif Ali on March 06, 2012:
Ojediran Tosin on March 06, 2012:
Oh! What a great bird, I wish to have one in my house.
Mob on February 19, 2012:
Awesome story. Thanks for providing this informative write-up. www.mychoicepet.blogspot.com
Spyros on February 13, 2012:
thanks i needed this for a composition
albert on February 12, 2012:
Contrary to a popular belief the Harpy eagle is not the most powerful eagle in the world.. It's the Philippine eagle it take much larger and heavier prey than Harpy eagle and more ferocious prey such as large snakes like pythons and cobras, monitor lizards, large monkeys like macaques. It feeds on civets, flying lemurs, monkeys, large birds, giant cloud rat, small dogs and pigs the largest prey it carries to it's nest was a 14 kg cervus deer.
Harpy eagle basically feeds on tree dwelling animals like birds, small monkeys and 80% of it's diet composed of sloths.
David on January 29, 2012:
Philippine eagle is the Most powerful eagle on earth!
Contrary to a popular belief that the Harpy eagle is the most powerful Theoretically due to it's thick legs and longest hind talon but this has to proved objectively.
Basically Harpy hunts tree dwelling animals like bird, sloth and monkeys 80 % of which are sloth. Philippine eagle hunts a variety of large and more ferocious animals as compared to Harpy eagle.
Link:(The Most Powerful Eagle)
Matthew on January 26, 2012:
WOW! i love eages, the bald Eagle!!!
cadawa on January 17, 2012:
ryan kesler on January 15, 2012:
you guys have a lot of imformation and it helped my son for his projects.
Donna Sundblad from Georgia on November 22, 2011:
You have a ton of good information here...could have easily been two hubs! Voted interesting and up!
labistar on November 21, 2011:
u need to fly higher like an eagle because we are going to fly eagles in the air to meet the Lord!!!!!!!!!!!!
Ugbomah ikechukwu on November 16, 2011:
This write up about the Eagle is awesome, magnificent and smooth sailing. It can really help we humans to discover a lot of hidden talents in us. I found a lot of things that will help me in contributing to a school magazine of which i will be drawing my lessons from the Eagle. Thank you guys for a job well done.
Anand on November 14, 2011:
why eagle's eyes are covered in photos from gulf countries
Donna Sundblad from Georgia on October 21, 2011:
When I lived in SW Florida, we had an eagles nest near our home. You've done a good job with this article. Informative AND interesting.
Cupcakes on September 25, 2011:
Wow. Really, really informative. I have to do an article about these wonderful birds and this really helped. Love the pictures. Very amazing article. I enjoyed reading this and watching the videos. :)
John Manasseh on August 29, 2011:
Educative and nice looking pics and videos.
John Patrick Isiaka on August 15, 2011:
Interesting and enlighten.
WillSteinmetz on July 27, 2011:
oh I love birds!Eagles are wonderful creatures.
Santee on February 19, 2011:
yours are cool and amazing i like your site.
georgia on February 19, 2011:
i really like you site it is cool
brooke on February 12, 2011:
ahsly on January 31, 2011:
i reallr like eagals they are one of my best animales
Jim on July 20, 2010:
What is an Eagle trying to signal when it puffs-out it's chest and partially extends it's wings, please ?
This beautiful seen was witnessed by me as a pair of Eagles sat on a high wire and watched their eaglets fly.
Chapter from Indonesia on July 07, 2010:
great eagle. I love eagle especially peregrine falcon because it can hunt
MCWebster on April 28, 2010:
Very informative article, thank you. Eagles are certainly magnificent.
random on April 28, 2010:
omg its helping so much
random on April 26, 2010:
omg this is cool i have to do an ssa on this @ school and it helped me
sasha on April 24, 2010:
hi i am sasha and i have never considered looking up eagles but now that i have i think they are AMAZING! they are such magical and majestic creatures!
bob on February 15, 2010:
Yard of nature from Michigan on January 25, 2010:
Great information. I keep an eye on eagles near here and enjoy watching them, whether they're perching, soaring, fishing or just passing by.
peterander on October 13, 2009:
Your facts are amazing and the photographs add more color to your post. Great effort.
jonty on August 06, 2009:
Wow ... these pictures about eagles are amazingly fascinating....
great keep up the good work ....
James A Watkins from Chicago on June 11, 2009:
This Hub of yours is outstanding. I can see the painstaking research and well-thought-out writing of the information. I am glad I learned about eagles from you today. They are great critters.
Nicolette Goff from British Columbia on June 10, 2009:
Very informative and interesting. We often have bald eagles right outside our front deck, perched on our 'eagle tree'. They're pretty common around this part of BC. Hadn't heard of the harpy eagle - the name sure fits the face on that one!
Nicole A. Winter from Chicago, IL on June 10, 2009:
RGraf: Fantastic hub, that Harpy Eagle is INSANE! It almost looks like a bear crossed with an owl, I've never seen a bird so freakin' big before. Very cool hub, RGraf, just in time for Independence Day. Big thumbs up, from me!
TheSandman on June 10, 2009:
Magnificent story, And educational, I also loved the pictures and videos. thank You !!!!