Hey guys welcome back! Today, a bird that is the symbol of the US, the bald eagle. Many of us know that Ben Franklin wasn’t so keen on the eagle being the national bird. He once said of the eagle, “He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him… Besides he is a rank coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district.” I’ll leave the parallels to those comments of the bald eagle and the US government for you to decipher haha. However, he is right about the bald eagle. They are much more likely to steal a fish from another bird (even another eagle) as its simply easier to do so. I recently was watching two hunting in Lake Erie and while one did dive into the water and come up with a nice sized fish, the other was able to steal it away.
The bald eagle is an immense bird. One of the largest in North America, with adults having a wingspan of nearly 7 feet! They are, of course, known for their signature white head and tail, and dark chocolate-brown body. But what some people don’t know is it actually takes a bald eagle about 5 years to develop this mature plumage. Prior to that they are a mottled brown and white (as seen in the picture below.) In fact, some bald eagles, for whatever reason, never obtain their adult plumage. In flight, their silhouette is distinct. They have large, broad, straight wings, and soar with their wings held flat, unlike the turkey vulture which holds its wings raised in a dihedral.
Growing up, I always heard about how rare and endangered the bald eagle was. Thanks to the chemical DDT, their numbers plummeted. The bald eagle was even listed as endangered in 1978. After DDT was banned, they recovered quite successfully. Bald eagle populations were so low at one time that they became extirpated in many parts of their natural range. Today, their populations have rebounded, and they were removed from the endangered species list in 2007. Their breeding population is now an estimated 250,000! They are also a bird I’ve seen in every state I’ve lived in, with Ohio being home to the most I’ve seen. And even though they’re common enough to see one and not go running after it to get a better look, they are always very cool to see. Well, if you celebrate Christmas, then be sure to have a good one. Check back next time for our first tern species! See you then!