Wildlife

Bald Eagles

brochure Wildlife - Bald Eagles

Bald Eagles at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Florida. Published by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS).

Facts About Nests are re-used every year unless the tree is lost. An older eagle nest can weigh up to 4000 pounds. BALD EAGLES Eagles lay one to three eggs per year. Both male and female tend the eggs during incubation, which is about 35 days. St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge Where Wildlife Comes First! Both parents feed the chicks until they fledge, at about three months old. After fledging, both adults teach the young how to be eagles. By this time, the adults will soon depart for their summer home to the north. The great-horned owl is the only bird that can take over an eagle’s nest. Bald eagles can live up to 50 years in the wild. Eagles eat fish, ducks, coots, and carrion (dead animals). Sometimes a pair will hunt together, taking turns to pursue a flock of ducks. Eagles will harass an osprey that has caught a fish until the osprey drops it for the eagle to catch. Their eyesight is 5-6 times better than ours. An adult eagle can eat up to two pounds at a time. Two eagle chicks. —Karen Willes St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge PO Box 68 St. Marks, FL 32355 850-925-6121 www.fws.gov/saintmarks/ Collecting or taking any plants, animals, or artifacts from federal lands is prohibited. Above - adult bald eagle Left- Juvenile bald eagle —Karen Willes Majestic is the only word to describe the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). This large bird of prey has been the national symbol of the United States of America since 1872, and a potent spiritual icon for native people and many others. The eagle is not bald, but the term refers to the white head of a mature bird. Soaring eagle pair. —Nick Baldwin Placement on the Endangered Species List gave much needed protection to bald eagles. By 1995, their population rebounded and they were removed from the list. In 1979, only one eagle nest was known on St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. At the present day, around 20 nests can be found across the refuge. Several nests are on the St. Marks Unit and three can easily be seen from Lighthouse Road. They are indicated on the map. Eagles can also be seen soaring overhead and sitting on a snag, watching for a meal. Male and female bald eagles look alike except for size. The male is slightly smaller weighing 8 to 10 pounds with a wingspan of 6 and a half feet. The female is larger, weighing up to 14 pounds with a wingspan of up to 8 feet. Eagles pair for life, but if one dies, the survivor will take a new mate. Eagles begin returning to St. Marks National Refuge in late August. They spend a few weeks loafing near their nest and then begin replacing broken branches and adding new branches to strengthen it. If the nest is too damaged or the tree has fallen, the eagles will start a new nest. Newly hatched chicks are covered in smoke grey down. They are dependent on their parents for food. As they grow, the down is replaced with dark feathers. The white head and tail feathers begin to appear when the bird is 4 to 5 years old. When fully cloaked in dark feathers, immature bald eagles appear to be slightly larger than their parents. Since they are young and inexperienced, appearing larger may offer extra protection. Immature bald eagle. —Karen Willes

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