Nature Canada

August Calendar Image: The Bald Eagle

Tina-Louise Rossit,
Guest Blogger.

This blog is written by Nature Canada guest blogger Tina-Louise Rossit.

The Bald Eagle is the second largest bird of prey in North America, after the Californian Condor, however, it is the only native eagle in North America. Within its ecosystem, the Bald Eagle is at the top of the food chain. Its diets consist primarily of fish, but will go for rodents, rabbits, small birds and/or mammals. In Canada, the largest populations of Bald eagles are found on the Pacific Coast of British Columbia since there are vast forested areas adjacent to large bodies of water — a Bald eagle’s preferred habitat. Being among the largest birds, Bald eagles also hold the record for largest nest in North America!

The Bald Eagle obtained its symbolic attributes from the culture and folklore of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas dating back centuries. A well-known mythology is that of that great Thunderbird, a legendary creature of supernatural power and strength, represented in physical form by the Bald eagle. There are many versions of the story, yet the Bald Eagle is said to a scared force of nature. Later on, in 1782, this raptor’s beauty and prestige inspired the newly established States of America, to select it as their national emblem.

A Bald Eagle perched on driftwood by the shore at Boundary Bay, captured by Tony Joyce.

Now, why are they called “bald” eagles? They’re not really bald, nor do they have hair, and by all means, they have lots of feathers on their heads! The term “bald” is derived from the word piebald which describes any animals with patterns of pigmented spots on unpigmented background. It can refer to hair, feathers, or scales. For other common examples, think of a Tobiano horses, magpie birds, and ball pythons. Thus, Bald eagles have unpigmented, or white, head feathers, on a pigmented, or brown, body.

If you like to birdwatch, or if you wanna add something really cool to your bucket list, you’re going to want to catch a glimpse of the Bald Eagle’s spectacular courtship display. Breeding seasons depend on latitudes where in Alaska and Canadian regions, this is April to August, and in Southern US, November to March. Bald Eagles are monogamous which means they pair for life, or until one dies. Each year they will undergo a flying ritual that functions to reinforce their bond. In other words, Bald eagles are probably one of the most romantic birds since they sort of re-married every year! And if you like acrobatic shows, you’re in for a treat. Some bird enthusiasts describe the ordeal as a courting coaster because they literally fly up and dive down in embraced swirls. Check it out for yourself!

Today the Bald Eagle is listed under “Least Concern”, but this is recent only. Their numbers hit a drastic low back in the 60’s when pesticides containing too much DDT was being used. Conservation programs were luckily set up quickly enough to save this iconic raptor. It is only because of these efforts that today the bald eagle has recuperated their numbers. This species is no longer under the full protection of the Endangered Species Act as of 2007, however, it is, and will continue to be, monitored to ensure no drastic declines happen again!

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