110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
Nature Scenes: Bald eagles get their white head feathers at age 5
By Lynn Bowen
posted Mar 23, 2014 - 3:00:28pm
Two beautiful bald eagles looked bored at a zoo as I tried to snap a wonderful photo of them, but they wouldn’t pose well for me. I could still watch them in awe with their beautiful white-feathered heads, powerful yellow beaks, and piercing yellow eyes with vision beyond amazing. While flying, they can see an object 3 miles away and make a direct line for it!
Bald eagles are about 31 inches long, and weigh 9.5 pounds. The females are slightly larger than the males, but both sexes basically look alike. Their plumage is mainly rich, dark brown, except for the white head and tail.
Incidentally, the head is not bald; it is feathered. The Old English meaning of the word “bald” (which was spelled “balde” in those days) was white, so now we understand their name. These birds of prey do not get their white head feathers until they are 5 years old.
Their legs and feet are golden yellow. Those powerful talons at the end of their toes can carry up to 4 pounds. Probably everyone recognizes the bald eagle, since it can be seen in the skies or trees here in Florida.
The powerful wings are broad, with an amazing wingspan of 80 inches, making it easy to soar, fly, and glide on high.
Bald eagles are rather lazy when it comes to finding food! They scavenge many meals by harassing other birds; for instance, a bald eagle may torment an osprey until it drops the fish it has just captured. They eat carrion, unused scraps, or just garbage. Fish is their main food, but they also hunt mammals, gulls and waterfowls.
Bald eagles live in all the states except for Hawaii. According to the American Bald Eagle Foundation in Alaska, more than 70 percent of eagles under the age of 5 die, mainly from starvation. The lucky ones who reach maturity can live up to 30 years.
One surprising fact about this raptor is that it has a rather weak vocalization. Bald eagles do not have vocal cords, but produce sounds from the syrinx, where the trachea divides to go to the lungs. In movies, filmmakers often dub in a different bird’s call for the bald eagle!
Gee, with fantastic looks and strength, our national birds are perfect just as they are!
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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