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The Eagle: Things You Might Not Know About the Symbol of America

Margaret Minnicks has been an online writer for many years. She writes articles that are interesting to her readers.

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The bald eagle has been the national symbol of the United States of America since June 20, 1782. The founding fathers selected it as America's emblem because of its longevity, strength, majestic looks and freedom.

Eagles are the highest flying birds, and they live only in North America. There are about 70,000 of them with over half that number living in Alaska.

Description

Bald eagles aren't exactly bald. They have bright white plumage on their heads that is the opposite of the dark feathers on their body. This gives the appearance of baldness.

The eagle is a solitary bird. Sometimes it might be on the ground with other eagles, but eagles often fly alone. They do not fly in a group like geese or some other birds.

Eagles are quite fast. They fly high and gracefully. In fact, soaring is a better word. They have wings and a tail to support their heavy body when they soar high in the sky. Their normal speed is 30 miles per hour. These large and powerful birds of prey can dive at speeds up to 100 miles per hour.

Eagles can fly for long periods of times without landing. This could be between two and four hours and as long as six or seven hours if they need to do so.

Unique Make Up of Eagles

The eagle has a heavy head with eyes on both sides. Therefore, it has keen eyesight. That's why they have no problem flying at night.

Like other birds, eagles do not have external ears, but they have excellent hearing with small holes on both sides of the head behind the eyes. The holes are not seen because feathers cover them.

The nostrils are at the base of the bill. This is one way the birds can breathe, but they do not have a very well-developed sense of smell.

The hole in the eagle's tongue is an opening to its respiratory system.

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Favorite Foods

Eagles are almost always found near a body of water. It might be along the coastline, near lakes, rivers and swamps. Perhaps that's because their favorite food is fish that includes catfish, salmon and herring.

Bald eagles will also eat a wide range of prey including crabs, frogs, muskrats, snakes, squirrels, rabbits, mice and other birds.

Age of Eagles

The eagle is the longest living bird. In the wild, it can live up to 29 years. In captivity, it can live up to 50 years. It is hard to tell the age of an eagle because it keeps regenerating itself.

Eagles have several thousand feathers that make up for about 5 percent of their body mass. The feathers are shed every year, but new and stronger ones replace the old ones.

When eagles become old and worn out, they go to the highest mountain and lay out under the sun so they can be strengthened with a new burst of energy.

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Nests

Because the eagle is such a big bird, it is no surprise that it has enormous nests that are found high up in treetops.

The male and female work as a team to build the nest together. The nest could be as huge as 9 feet in diameter and 15 feet deep. The pair of eagles returns to it every year. However, they do not return empty-handed. They bring more twigs and grass to add to the nest. Reportedly, one nest in Ohio was used for 36 years, and it weighed almost one ton.

Male and Female Eagles

Unlike humans, female eagles are bigger than their male companion. Females usually weigh 10-12 pounds. Males usually weigh only 7-8 pounds. Females can be up to 3 feet tall with a wingspan up to 8 feet.

A pair of bald eagles tends to mate and stay together for a lifetime. Both the male and female incubate 1-3 eggs for 35 days. When their eaglets are born, the parents feed them and share other parental duties. Both of them stay close to the nest to train the little ones.

Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. What are baby eagles called?
    • eaglets
    • eagles
    • young eagles
  2. What is the normal flying speed of an eagle?
    • 10 mph
    • 25 mph
    • 30 mph
  3. What is the diving speed of an eagle when it is going after a prey?
    • 75 mph
    • 100 mph
    • 250 mph
  4. What is the eagle's favorite food?
    • fruits
    • vegetables
    • fish
  5. Which is TRUE?
    • The eagle is a solidary bird.
    • Females are slightly bigger than males.
    • Male and females incubate the eggs.
    • All of the above

Answer Key

  1. eaglets
  2. 30 mph
  3. 100 mph
  4. fish
  5. All of the above