Mature bald eagles have a dark brown body with white head and tail. The large, hooked bill, strong talons, and irises of the eyes are yellow. Females are larger than males, but otherwise the sexes look alike. In flight, bald eagles soar on rising warm air currents on flattened wings (not holding them V-shaped). Juveniles are all brown, with white speckles. Voice is a series of chirps or a loud screaming whistle.
Habitat and Conservation
As a cherished U.S. national symbol, the bald eagle’s cultural value is hard to estimate.
In some Native American cultures, bald eagles are held sacred, and their feathers are important symbols.
Humans played a large role in the decline of eagles in the 1900s. These birds were shot, trapped, and poisoned, and they also declined as a result of pesticide-related nesting failures. But humans have also enabled their population comeback, enacting laws to ban the most troublesome pesticides and protecting them from persecution.
Bald eagles can suffer from lead poisoning when they consume carrion shot by hunters with lead shot.
They lose nesting, hunting, and roosting habitat because of shoreline development.
As scavengers and top predators, bald eagles suffered from pesticides that accumulated in the bodies of the many insects, insect eaters, and other small predators beneath them in the food chain. They offer a classic example of how some molecules can concentrate in the bodies of animals at the top of food chains.