Bald & Golden Eagle Information

The Bald Eagle is an Endangered Species Act success story.

Forty years ago, our national symbol was in danger of extinction throughout most of its range. Habitat destruction and degradation, illegal shooting, and the contamination of its food source, largely as a consequence of  DDT, decimated the eagle population. Habitat protection afforded by the Endangered Species Act, the federal government’s banning of DDT, and conservation actions taken by the American public have helped Bald Eagles make a remarkable recovery.

Bald Eagles were removed from the endangered species list in August 2007 because their populations recovered sufficiently. Bald and Golden eagles are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act  (MBTA) and the Bald and Golden Eagle Act ( Eagle Act).

Eagle Biology

Bald Eagle credit Katherine Whittemore/usfws

Bald Eagles

Distinguished by a white head and white tail feathers, bald eagles are powerful, brown birds that may weigh 14 pounds and have a wingspan of 8 feet. Male eagles are smaller, weighing as much as 10 pounds and have a wingspan of 6 feet. Sometimes confused with Golden Eagles, Bald Eagles are mostly dark brown until they are four to five years old and acquire their characteristic coloring.

Bald Eagles live near rivers, lakes, and marshes where they can find fish, their staple food. Bald Eagles will also feed on waterfowl, turtles, rabbits, snakes, and other small animals and carrion. Bald Eagles require a good food base, perching areas, and nesting sites. Their habitat includes estuaries, large lakes, reservoirs, rivers, and some seacoasts. In winter, the birds congregate near open water in tall trees for spotting prey and night roosts for sheltering.

Eagles mate for life, choosing the tops of large trees to build nests, which they typically use and enlarge each year. Nests may reach 10 feet across and weigh a half ton. They may also have one or more alternate nests within their breeding territory. In treeless regions, they may also nest in cliffs or on the ground. The birds travel great distances but usually return to breeding grounds within 100 miles of the place where they were raised. Bald Eagles may live 15 to 25 years in the wild, longer in captivity. Breeding Bald Eagles typically lay one to three eggs once a year, and they hatch after about 35 days. The young eagles are flying within three months and are on their own about a month later.

See fact sheet on  Bald Eagles (1MB)

Golden Eagle

Golden Eagles

Golden Eagles build nests on cliffs or in the largest trees of forested stands that often afford an unobstructed view of the surrounding habitat. Their nests are usually, sticks and soft material added to existing nests, or new nests that are constructed to create strong, flat or bowl shaped platforms.

Golden Eagles avoid nesting near urban habitat and do not generally nest in densely forested habitat. Individuals will occasionally nest near semi-urban areas where housing density is low and in farmland habitat; however Golden Eagles have been noted to be sensitive to some forms of human presence. Golden Eagles lay one to four eggs, with two eggs being most common and four eggs most rare. The laying interval between eggs ranges between three to five days.

See fact sheet on  Golden Eagles (387.3KB)

Learn More on the management of Bald and Golden eagles.

 Learn More about Bald Eagle populations

Last Updated: September 25, 2015