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The Bald Eagle

The Bald Eagle-Haliaeetus Leucocephalus-Lord of The Skies-Rider of The Winds-Majestic-Symbol of Power, Strength, and Freedom.

The Bald Eagle was officially declared our national symbol in 1782. It has since then become to be the living symbol of the United States freedom. It's imagery and symbolisms has played an important part in the American arts, folklore, music, and architecture. It is on every dollar bill made.

The bald Eagle has a presence at sometime or another during the year in every state except Hawaii. In Pennsylvania there are forty-one nests recorded. Forty-two young were produced last year.

The bald eagle is not really bald. It just looks that way from a distance because of it's bright white feathers. The term "bald" comes from a English version "balde" meaning white.

Actually it is born without it's head feathers. Eagle young lack the white head and tail feathers which take four to five years to get. In the mean time their body is mottled with white feathers. At maturity they gain the white head and tail feathers while their beak turns yellow.

The eagle's eyesight is totally awesome. An eagle can spot a rabbit a mile away and immediately plunge 85 miles a hour to seize it up for dinner. Eagles have two eyelids. One is for sleeping. The other is for blinking. The inner eyelid is translucent allowing the eagle to see during mid-blink. It also cleans the dirt and dust from the cornea area.

The eagle's eye is almost as large as a human eye. The sharpness is at least six times that of a human with 20/20 vision. The eye does not move so therefore the eagle must turn it's head. Still in all with that kind of vision the eagle does not miss very much.

The wing span can be from 6 1/2 feet to 8 feet. The female has the larger wingspan. To control their flight eagles manipulate the shape and size of their wings. They can control the angle at which the wings and individual feathers meet the wind. While soaring the wings can be fanned for more uplift or pulled back towards the body to begin a dive.

A full grown eagle carries around 7000 feathers. And he uses every one of them. Some are for flight. Some are for warmth. There are twelve feathers in it's tail. The bone structure weighs about 1/2 pound. The bones are hollow with braces inside to keep them from breaking easily. With every thing thrown together their average weight runs about thirteen pounds. The female being slightly larger and heavier.

Bald Eagles mate for life. They are monogamous and remain faithful untill death. A pair will renew their bond in aerial courtship with diving and somersaulting through the air, their talons locked together using natural winds and thermal updrafts. They build nests that with continous add-ons can be over twelve feet across and weighing a ton.

A mating pair return to the nest in the spring,adding to the nest, and lay two eggs which hatch in May. The eggs take about thirty-five days to hatch. Both eagle parents share in the brooding duties(egg incubation, nest watch, eaglet brooding, and hunting for food to feed the eaglets) until the young are stong enough to fly. Eaglets are adult size and can fly at twelve weeks of age. About fifty percent of eaglets born survive the first year.

An eagle's beak is strong weapon. It is more complex than it appears. The hooked tip is used for tearing. The upper half which is sharp enough to slice the toughest of skins overlaps the lower half creating scissors. This outstanding tool is also gentle enough to groom it's mate or feed the young their many meals.

The Bald Eagle is basically a clumsy hunter and fisher. It relies heavily on dead or injured fish. It will wait for fish to come to spawn in the shallow waters where the hunting is easy. The eagle will steal from the osprey by harassing it in the air until the osprey drops the prey. The eagle will then snatch it up for it's own meal.

Small animals such as ducks, muskrats, snakes and coots are among the foods the eagle dines on. Salmon is it's favorite fish to engorge on. When an eagle swoops down on a prey it has about a 1,000 pounds of pressure per square inch per foot. It can only lift half of it's weight. Even though can they swim using their strong wings as paddles they can drown if the prey is too heavy.

An eagle can tell when a storm is approaching. Long before it breaks the eagle will fly to some spot high and wait for the winds to come. When the storm hits the eagle sets it's wings so the winds will pick it up and lift it above the storm. While storm is raging on the eagle is soaring above it.