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August Calendar Image: The Bald Eagle
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August Calendar Image: The Bald Eagle

[caption id="attachment_36590" align="alignleft" width="150"] Tina-Louise Rossit,
Guest Blogger.[/caption] 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. [caption id="attachment_38133" align="alignright" width="300"] A Bald Eagle perched on driftwood by the shore at Boundary Bay, captured by Tony Joyce.[/caption] 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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Bibliography https://www.canadiangeographic.ca/article/animal-facts-bald-eagle https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Bald_Eagle/lifehistory https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/baleag/introduction http://www.arkive.org/bald-eagle/haliaeetus-leucocephalus/#text=Facts http://www.native-languages.org/thunderbird.htm

Power and Strength: The Bald Eagle
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Power and Strength: The Bald Eagle

[caption id="attachment_23299" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Valerie Assinewe Valerie Assinewe,
Guest Blogger[/caption] To the ancient Romans, it stood for power and strength; to the Persians, it symbolized wisdom; to Amerindians, its ability to soar to great heights made it a messenger of the gods. Across centuries, continents and cultures, many species of eagle have featured in myth, folklore and heraldry. The Bald Eagle, illustrated in this month’s 2017 Nature Canada calendar, is perhaps the most widely-recognized national symbol in the world. Where do they live? The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), one of Canada’s most easily recognized raptors (a bird of prey that hunts and kills with its feet), was once common throughout North America. It can still be found in most parts of Canada, excluding Nunavut; most parts of the United States; and coastal and interior Mexico. The best place to look for Bald Eagles are near lakes, rivers, marshes and coasts. What do they look like? The Bald Eagle has a bright white head, neck, and tail, and a dark brown body. Its massive hooked beak is bright yellow, as are its powerful legs. The retractable talons are black. Adults have very pale, piercing eyes. The Bald Eagle is 71-96 cm in length, weighs from 3-6.3 kg, and has a 1.8-2.3 m wingspan. Females are larger than males. They soar on flattened wings, and in silhouette show as much head and neck in front of the wing as tail projecting behind. What do they eat? While they are primarily fish eaters, Bald Eagles will also feed on mammals, birds, carrion and garbage, sometimes taking these from other predators. Their carnivorous and combative behaviour are key to their survival. When food is plentiful, they can gorge on a surprising amount, which they digest slowly. They can then fast for many days, and even weeks. How do they reproduce?Image of a Bald Eagle The Bald Eagle is monogamous and believed to pair for life. The pair bond is reinforced through spectacular, acrobatic flight displays. These include the pair flying to a great height, locking talons, and cartwheeling towards the ground, only breaking off at the last moment. In Canada, the breeding season ranges from April to August. Both sexes construct the nest, called an “aerie”, usually in a large and tall tree near a body of water. Built with sticks and lined with grass, moss, seaweed or other vegetation, the aerie is reused and gradually expanded for years. One to three white eggs are laid and incubated by both parents for approximately 35 days. Eaglets hatch covered with light grey feathers; after about three weeks, their plumage becomes brown. First flights usually occur at 9-10 weeks once the wing and tail feathers are developed. Young eagles continue to depend on the parents for food to 17-23 weeks, when the bond fades. Young eagles acquire the distinctive white and brown colouration of the adult at 4-5 years of age—about the time they will start to breed. The Bald Eagle lives up to 30 years in the wild, but its average lifespan is 15-20 years. A captive eagle was reported to be at least 48 years old. Eyes like an eagle? One of the most remarkable features of the Bald Eagle is its extraordinary vision. Like other birds of prey, eagles, can see 4-7 times farther than an average human. Two eyeball features result in sharp focus and central magnification: the retina of eagles’ eyes have a million light-sensitive cells per square mm of retina, five times more than a human’s 200,000; and, they have a much deeper fovea—a cone-rich structure in the backs of the eyes that detects light from the center of the visual field—that provides extra magnification. In addition to these adaptations, eagles, like all birds, have superior colour vision: while humans see just three basic colours, eagles see five. Eagles and hawks have yet another hunter asset: their eyes are angled 30 degrees away from the midline of the face providing a 340-degree field of view—almost double the human field of view. These adaptations gives eagles extremely keen eyesight and enable them to spot even well-camouflaged prey up to 1.6 km away! Interesting stuff

  • The Bald Eagle is the only eagle solely native to North America.
  • Northern coastal populations are largely resident, but inland Canadian birds migrate south to areas of open water or to the coast during winter.
  • The Bald Eagle is the second largest North American bird of prey, after the Californian condor.
  • It may look bald, but the Bald Eagle's head is actually covered with white feathers. The name “Bald” Eagle comes from an old English word, "balde," meaning white.
  • It’s not the highest flyer—that honour goes to a vulture—but a Bald Eagle can soar over 3,000 m high, majestically gliding and riding thermal air currents.
Bald Eagle numbers dropped in the 19th century due to human activity. Pesticide bioaccumulation in their principle food source (fish) accelerated their decline in the 20th century: buildup of DDT led to reproductive failure and thin egg shells that broke as the adults tended to them. Thanks to a ban on DDT in the early 1970s and concerted conservation efforts, the Bald Eagle population has rebounded. The current major threats to the Bald Eagle are loss of habitat due to development of shorelines and pollution. You can do your part by supporting our efforts to protect the forest and shoreline habitats of the majestic Bald Eagle. If you want to learn more about the raptors of Canada, check out our Raptors and Owls e-Book
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The Majestic Bald Eagle
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The Majestic Bald Eagle

[caption id="attachment_29148" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Asma Hassan Asma Hassan, Guest Blogger[/caption] This blog was written by Asma Hassan. The majestic Bald Eagle is unique to North America. In Canada, British Columbia tends to have the largest concentration of this species and this province seems to be a prime location for these birds to breed and nest during the winter. In terms of habitats, Bald Eagles favour forests near large bodies of water as this type of location provides a resting place and is close to their prey. Basic Facts:

  • Genus: Haliaeetus
  • Species: leucocephalus
  • Average Life Span: 25 to 40 years
  • Gestation Period: 35 days
The average female Bald Eagle weighs anywhere from 4.5 to 6.8 kg while the average male weighs from 2.7 to 4 kg. The wingspan of this species of bird is over two feet on average! Equipped with sharp talons, a hooked beak and large, spiked feet, the Bald Eagle’s body is perfect for hunting. In terms of eating habits, it subsists on a diet of fish, carrion, rodents and other birds. Bald Eagles also have excellent vision, which is why the phrase “eagle eye” is no joke. The average Bald Eagle can see 4 to 7 times better than a human.Image of a Bald Eagle The Bald Eagle is a predator that holds a firm position at the top of the food chain. Though this bird does not have to fear other wildlife as threats to its well being, it does have another threat. Humans are arguably one of the main causes of the decline in the Bald Eagle population. Human intervention such as the cutting of trees results in a loss of habitat, which has a negative impact on reproduction. The use of pesticides has also had a significant impact on the Bald Eagle population as it contaminates their food supply. In order to prevent extensive human intervention, laws have been put in place to protect this species. Though this species has experienced some rough patches, the Bald Eagle population in Canada is currently stable.

Did you know?

  • Bald Eagles perform a special courtship dance in the sky!
  • The Bald Eagle is not actually bald. This term stems from the root word “piebald” which means spotty, a more accurate description of the bird.
  • If a Bald Eagle loses a feather on one wing, it will shed it on the other as well in order to maintain its balance.
  • Bald Eagles are the largest birds of prey in Canada.
  • Of all the birds in North America, the Bald Eagle builds the largest nest.
If you want to learn more about the other types of raptors in Canada, be sure to check out our Raptors and Owls e-Book! Acknowledgements: Hinterland Who's Who Bald Eagle, Canadian Geographic and Defenders of Wildlife
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