A National Symbol

The American Bald Eagle

Did you know?

The Bald Eagle, like many other species of the eagle, builds a large and solid nest called an eerie. The eerie is made of tangled twigs and branches. The nest is used for many years. The nesting period is usually from February 15 through August 1.


The incubation of the eggs lastsfrom 30 to 45 days. Then the eagle chick emerges from the shell. The first chick to hatch is the dominant one. Its brothers and sisters are usually hatched a few days later. The siblings fight and the first and oldest eagle chick sometimes kills the others by denying them adequate food. The parents sometimes ignore the fighting and feed the survivor; sometimes they intervene and save the weaker.


Bald Eagles range throughout most of the country, including the west and the Midwest. They also range from northern Alaska, and Canada down to northern Mexico. Bald Eagles usually return to a nest within one hundred miles from where they were raised. As early as mid October, the Bald Eagles arrive in western Illinois. They leave for their breeding ranges by late March. The Bald Eagles' summer breeding ranges are usually in Alaska and Canada. Their wintering range is from the Great Lakes down to northern Mexico.

The Bald Eagle has many reasons to migrate. They migrate for more food and better shelter. The river wetland areas of Western Illinois provide open water for fishing and large trees for roosting.

Adult bald eagles (at 4 to 5 years) are identified by their white head and tail, solid brown body, and large, curved, yellow bill. Juveniles have blotchy patches of white on their underside and tail. Adults are about 1 meter (3 feet) in height and have a 2.3 meter (7 foot) wing span. Male eagles weigh 3.5 to 6 kilograms (10 to 14 pounds).

The bald eagle is not really bald; it actually has white feathers on its head, neck and tail. Bald is the form of an Old English word meaning white. The eagle was named for its white feathers instead for a lack of feathers.

Bald eagles in Alberta live and nest near rivers, lakes, and wet prairies. Eagles will take fish swimming close to the water's surface, small mammals, waterfowl. wading birds, or carrion.

Bald eagles can live up to 30 years in the wild and longer in captivity. The bald eagle can fly 20 to 40 m.p.h. in normal flight and can dive at speeds over 100 m.p.h. These eagles can also actually swim, and will use an overhand movement of the wings that is very much like the butterfly stroke.

Bald eagles lay eggs at the age of 4 or 5 and may use the same nest year after year, adding more twigs and branches each time. One nest was found that had been used for 34 years and weighed over two tons! The female will lay 2 or 3 white eggs.

Can you well why the eagle was chosen to represent our country?


A little bird told me that you learned something about the Bald Eagle.

Return to learn more about the symbols.