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Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Bald Eagle


  • Weight varies from 3 to 5.5 kilograms (7 to 12 pounds) and wingspan in an adult may reach up to 2.5 metres (8 feet).
  • Overall measure is about 85 centimetres (33 inches) long.


  • An adult bald eagle, with its white head and tail, is easily identified, but a young or immature bird is often mistaken for a golden eagle.
  • This eagle, found only in North America, is most often seen in the mountain and northern regions of Alberta.
  • It winters in the central and southern U.S. and on the Pacific coast.
Natural History


  • The bald eagle is always found near rivers and lakes, except during migration.


  • The bald eagle is a scavenger and a predator, subsisting mainly on fish.
  • Small birds and rodents may also form part of its diet.
Reproduction and Growth

Breeding Behaviour

  • Nests are usually built near the tops of tall trees.
  • Relatively small at first, the nest is added to and repaired each successive year it is inhabited, until it may reach a diameter of 2.5 metres (8 feet).
  • Two to three white eggs are an average clutch size.

Growth process

  • Adult plumage is not fully attained until the fifth or sixth year.
Conservation and Management


The bald eagle is classified as Sensitive in the General Status of Alberta Wild Species report. See:


  • Starting in the second half of the 20th century, the number of bald eagles dropped alarmingly in the United States and southern Ontario, as a result of the effects of DDT, other toxic chemicals and persecution by people.
  • Currently, global DDT residues are in decline and the bald eagle is showing strong population increases in both the United States and Ontario.
  • Population density is low in Alberta and nests are vulnerable to human disturbance.

Current management

  • Like all birds of prey in Alberta, the bald eagle is protected by the provincial Wildlife Act and classified as a non-game species.
Similar Species

A young bald eagle can be mistaken for a golden eagle, but the bald eagle has feathers extending only half-way down the leg, and less white showing at the base of the tail and primaries (longest wing feathers) than the golden eagle.


Page Information

Updated: Jan 8, 2014