Ever seen the majestic bird of prey that represents America as its National
Symbol? They are an impressive sight! We are lucky enough to see them quite regularly out on nature trips and during our environmental education programs here at Camp Foley. In fact, camp director Alli Faricy has snapped photos of them in mid-flight around our Whitefish Lake on several occasions.
|Eagle mid-flight. (Photo by Alli Faricy)|
With their large brown bodies and snow-white feathered heads, bald eagles are unmistakable and easy to distinguish from hawks, vultures, and other large raptors. They can grow to 40 inches in length and have a huge wingspan of up to 7.5 feet. Perhaps this is why they make the largest nests of any bird in North America.
Bald Eagles can be found from Canada to Northern Mexico, but prefer to live near oceans, lakes, or rivers because they feed primarily on fish. Using its keen eyesight, they can spot a fish several hundred yards away, and swoop down and pluck it from the water with its powerful talons as the fish comes up to feed. These powerful birds have been clocked diving through the air at up to 43 mph and flying away with a fish in their talons at 30 mph.
|Photo by Alli Faricy|
It is believed that Bald Eagles mate for life, and have sometimes been observed hunting together. In these cases, one eagle distracts their potential prey while the other swoops in to pounce on it. While a large percentage of the bird’s diet consists of fish and carrion (the carcasses of dead animals that have been left behind by other predators), they also catch and eat small reptiles like snakes and lizards, and mammals such as rabbits, squirrels, and raccoons. Hungry bald eagles will sometimes hunt larger animals too and have even been observed successfully catching an adult trumpeter swan in mid-flight.
As the National Bird of the United States, the Bald Eagle is protected by federal law. Unfortunately, illegal hunting and the use of dangerous crop pesticides in America during the 1950s, ’60s, and 70 are nearly caused this beautiful creature to go extinct. By 1950, there were only 412 pairs of bald eagles left in the entire United States!
Our Founding Fathers chose the Bald Eagle to represent our country as our National Symbol because the eagle was a symbol of the ancient Republic of Rome – the democratic government of the mighty Roman Empire run by a council of senators (before Rome became a dictatorship). On the Presidential Seal of The United States, the bald eagle is represented holding thirteen arrows in one talon and thirteen olive branches in the other. The arrows and olive branches represent America’s thirteen original colonies and symbolize that while the United States prefers peace, it will fight to protect the safety and freedom of its people.