It’s only fitting that in a time when we celebrate our nation’s independence, we choose the Bald Eagle as our bird of the month. The Bald Eagle has served our country as the national emblem since 1782 and while it is hard to believe that anyone would disagree that such a majestic and beautiful bird would be anything but perfect to symbolize the strength and freedom of America, The Bald Eagle was not always a favorable choice.
In fact, in 1784 Benjamin Franklin made it clear he had no part in choosing the Bald Eagle over the Wild Turkey. Franklin didn’t like the idea of choosing a bird that steals its food from others and could be so easily intimidated by small birds. “For my own part,” he wrote, “I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. … 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.”
As far as stealing food goes, indeed the Bald Eagle seems to prefer grabbing an easy meal from another bird or a human to going to the trouble of hunting. Bald Eagles are also happy to go dumpster diving or grab a bite on the road. While Bald Eagles are skillful hunters and fishers, they’re not picky about what they eat or how they obtain each meal. These eagles prefer fish but will eat snakes, turtles, rabbits, and waterfowl. The Bald Eagles’ love for fish is what drives them to set up territories near oceans, lakes, rivers, or streams. You’ll find them up and down the U. S. coasts during various times of the year.
Ben Franklin may not have admired the Bald Eagles’ hunting abilities, but he’d have to admire their home building and parenting skills. Their nests are huge, and year after year couples will return to the same nests making it larger and more elaborate. While most nests are about five to six feet in diameter and two feet high, they can be much bigger. According to the website for the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest bird’s nest ever built was constructed by a pair of Bald Eagles near St Petersburg, Florida. The site reveals that the nest was examined in 1963, and it measured nine feet six inches wide and twenty feet deep. The nest was estimated to weigh more than two tons.
Once Bald Eagles begin incubating the eggs, they are incredibly dedicated parents. They will stay in the nest through the harshest winter weather. A National Geographic documentary follows a pair of Bald Eagles who illustrate the challenges and the fortitude of these amazing birds. At one point, the father must make a painful decision about how long to stay with his nest. After he has lost hope that the female will return, he does abandon the nest. Sadly, the female did not return because she died from an unknown cause.
Eagles are depicted as strong and powerful, but in reality this top of the food chain raptor has a very hard time just surviving to the mature breeding age of four years. Born weighing just a few ounces, the odds are stacked against these vulnerable creatures from the beginning. Mom and dad feed the young for the first four months, then they must fend for themselves. It’s at this time that the young eagle struggles to survive. In fact, it’s estimated that only about one in ten eagles makes it to four years old. The ones who do make the cut are powerful hunters and can be expected to live to be about 20 – 25 years old.
Although at one time Bald Eagles were endangered because of hunting and herbicides including DDT, efforts in the 1970’s to bring back this national emblem have worked and populations have increased. It is no longer considered endangered.
If you want to see Bald Eagles, head for water where they winter in large numbers at lakes and national wildlife refuges. Below is a link showing the best places for spotting Bald Eagles.
If you have photos or experiences with Bald Eagles, we’d love for you to share them with the Cole’s community on our Facebook page.
Cole’s Wild Bird Products is a family-owned company that distributes wild bird feed and suet products. The company is known for offering the highest quality products on the market. Cole’s also specializes in chile infused seed products designed to make your feeder a bird’s only “hot” spot. Cole’s started in the garage of mom and pop entrepreneurs Richard and Nancy Cole back in the early 1980’s. Today it distributes to retailers nationwide. Cole’s is located in the metro Atlanta area. For more information, visit www.ColesWildBird.com.