Posted by: Andrew Skelton | 26/09/2011

Uncle Sam

Bald Eagle, originally uploaded by

You probably all know that the Bald Eagle is the national bird of the USA, in fact it is the only Eagle native to North America, but do you know that their numbers fell to only 450 breeding pairs in the wild? Luckily the US Government stepped in, in time, some forty years ago placing them on the Endangered list and put in place measures to ensure their survival and protection. Another conservation success, there are now around 9000 pairs throughout the US and as such are no longer classified as Endangered.

The birds are not limited to just the US, and can be found in Alaska and Canada; the numbers in these two countries are incredibly healthy in part due to the large amount of undisturbed wilderness as well as the abundance of food, especially when the salmon return to their spawning grounds. You may be aware that when these well travelled fish do return to produce the next generation, they are returning to their final resting places. The birds will predate on the live fish as they make their way up the rivers and through lake but will also feed upon dead or dying fish.

Their white head is typical of fish eating eagles, you only have to look at the African Fish Eagle (obvious by it’s name), Steller’s Sea Eagle (I’m making this quite easy really aren’t I?) and Osprey which all exhibit this common trait (apparently the white feather might help break up the outline of the bird, and so confuse the fish – I should be a pretty handy at fishing with my grey hair!). The white head is also responsible for the birds name, it’s pretty obvious that the birds head is covered in feathers and as such Bald would seem an odd name however when the bird was named, bald was another term for white. Perhaps if I suffer from such a complaint I will simply say I’m going white, not bald!


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