A magnificent predator and this week’s wildlife Wednesday creature is the bald eagle!
Despite their name, bald eagles are not actually hairless; their name derives from an older definition of the word, meaning “white headed.” Weighing in between 2.5 and 7 kg (5.5 – 15lbs) with a wingspan reaching up to 2.4m (8 ft), these great birds are considered one of the largest true raptors in North America! In contrast to many other animal species, female bald eagles are actually larger than their male counterparts by up to 25%.
In the air, bald eagles are quite majestic. Using thermal air currents, they can reach soaring speeds of up to 70 km or 160km while diving, and can fly up to 10 000ft high! They are made to soar; so much so in fact that if a bald eagle loses a feather of one wing it will molt a feather on the other in order to maintain its balance in flight… how cool is that!
Their skill in aviation make bald eagles very adept hunters. With a pounds per square inch gripping power of nearly 10 times that of humans, these birds are easily able to snag large prey out of the ocean and rivers. They are often seen on our trips in treetops enjoying their ability to see 4 to 7 times farther than the average human; they can literally spot a fish a mile away! When hard pressed to find fish, eagles will scavenge for garbage, steal from other birds (esp. Osprey), or even search for mammalian prey including rabbits, beavers, raccoons, and even deer fawns. One bald eagle was recorded carrying a 6.8 kg (15 lb) mule deer!
Want to know more about bald eagles? Check out Canadian Geographic’s webpage on them: http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/wildlife-nature/?path=english/species/bald-eagle. Better yet, come with us this summer to see this spectacular bird in action!