Another unique opportunity to hear the views of one of the animals we share this planet with…or should be sharing.
An Exclusive Interview with the Bald Eagle.
FN: What species do you represent?
Bald Eagle: I represent Bald Eagles ( Haliaeetus leucocephalus ). Our species was chosen by your Congress as your nation’s symbol in 1782, We have been a spiritual symbol among Indigenous people far longer.
FN: How big are you? What would you say you weigh?
Bald Eagle: Generally speaking we are one of the largest birds in North America. We dwarf Turkey Vultures and Red-Tailed hawks. Our wingspan is a little larger than the Great Blue Heron’s.
The females in our species, like myself, tend to be larger than the males. We can weigh as much as 14 pounds with wingspans up to 8 feet. Our males only weigh up to 10 pounds with wingspans of about 6 feet.
FN: Would you say you have a long life?
Bald Eagle: Not very. We live about 20 – 30 years. One Bald Eagle lived to be 38 years old. We know that because some humans tagged him so they had been following him all those years. He would have lived longer but he was hit and killed by a car in New York where he lived.
FN: Where do you live?
Bald Eagle: There are Bald Eagles throughout North America and south to northern Mexico. We prefer to live near lakes, reservoirs, rivers, marshes, and coasts. Usually forested areas near water. We like high perches up in coniferous or deciduous trees so we get a good view of our surroundings. Some of us though have been known to perch or nest on cliffs o even the ground when big tree stands are not available. Wherever we live we try to stay as far away from humans as possible.
FN: What do you like to eat?
Bald Eagle: Fish. Definitely fish like salmon, herring, catfish depending on what fresh or saltwater fish are available in our area. That’s why we try to stay within a couple miles of waterways. We’ll eat other meats as well such as birds, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates such as crabs, and mammals including rabbits and muskrats.
We hunt these animals ourselves but we also eat carrion, you know, the ones that are already dead. We even frequently chase other animals like Osprey and other eagles and sometime river and sea otters and take the food they caught. We get chased by other raptors ourselves and even little songbirds like Blackbirds Crows and Flycatchers. We’re all struggling for territory and food.
Sometimes some of us have even snatched fish from people. Hey, they are fishing in our territory, and not even working as hard at it as the rest of us, you have to expect that. That is about the only time we tolerate people is when it comes to food. Some Bald Eagles will even congregate near fish processing plants just to get access to all that food people waste Some of us will hang out near dumps and below dams where fish tend to gather.
FN: How do you get around?
Bald Eagle: Well, mainly flying of course. We are good strong fliers. We can soar, glide and flap over long distances. Even our young eagles will wander about the first four years of their lives, checking out territories and will wander hundreds of miles away. I heard some young birds from Florida have wandered north as far as Michigan, and birds from California have reached Alaska.
When we chase birds like Osprey to get a nice big fish they caught they will often drop it and we just snatch it right up in midair. I’ve seen some Bald Eagles take the fish right out of the Osprey’s talons in midair.
When I met my mate, like all Bald Eagles, we danced in the air. People call it the “Cartwheel”. We flew high up in the sky and locked talons, then we cartwheel spiraling downward together breaking off at the last minute just before crashing to the Earth. It’s exciting.
Definitely flying is our best way to travel. We walk as well, kind of a waddle so it is not our strong suit. We will also float on water. Not like a duck. We float on the water, if the water is too deep to wade though or we just caught a fish too big and heavy to fly with. We use our wings to “row” with like paddles to get to shore. Again, not our favorite way to travel but effective when we need to.
FN: since you are such strong fliers do you migrate?
Bald Eagle: No. Not really. Most of us stay in our territories as long as we have plenty of food. Now in the winter some of us will migrate to coastal areas or south for food. In Alaska there is the Chilkat River where the salmon have one more run in the fall and winter. A lot of us fly from all over to go there and fish.
FN: Do you have a mate? Any children?
Bald Eagle: Yes to both. My mate and I built a nest out of sticks we wove together. Well, he helped gather the sticks, I mostly placed them. I’m spending a long time in the nest so I want it just right. We also put grass and moss in it to fill in the gaps a bit. We built it years ago. We have been using it and building on it ever since. That is why our nests are so famous for their size. They just get bigger and bigger each year until a storm blows either the nest or the tree down. Then we have to start over.
Most nests are around 5 to 6 feet in diameter and 2 to 4 feet tall. The largest nest a human ever recorded was in St. Petersburg, FL. It was nine and a half feet (2.9 meters) in diameter and 20 feet (6.1 meters) tall. Another nest—in Vermilion, Ohio—was shaped like a wine glass and weighed almost 4,000 pounds ( almost two metric tons). It was used for 34 years until the tree blew down.
My mate and I have been together building our home and raising our eaglets each year for a long time. Bald Eagles mate for life you know.
Each year I lay around one to three eggs and keep them warm and safe for around 34 to 36 days. After around 56 – 98 days my once soft light-gray downy chicks are now big brown young eagles ready to leave the nest and go on their own. They don’t get their beautiful white head feathers until they are around 5 years old. By then they will be ready to start their own family and will probably return to this area where they were born to raise their children. Some of our young eagles my mate and I raised are in the area with their family.
FN: What is your social life like?
Bald Eagle: We’re not usually very social. We are mostly solitary just my mate and I. Like I said before we might gather in numbers at real good feeding sites, especially in winter. There are a few Bald Eagles I heard of who have hunted together. One Eagle will flush prey towards the other to catch it.
FN: Do you do anything for fun?
Bald Eagle: Sure. Besides enjoying riding the wind we find games to play. We find objects to lay with like sticks or other things, sometimes, unfortunately it can be human garbage like plastic bottles. We’ll also play a fun game where a bunch of us will pass a stick to each other in flight. You have to do something to have fun. It cannot be all hunting and eating.
FN: What would you say is your biggest concern?
Bald Eagle: Well, having enough food for yourself and your kids is on our minds a lot. Hoping our kids always have clean land water and air to live with. I would say our biggest concern is people. The other things my mate and I work hard for, but people…with people we don’t have any control. We worry about habitat destruction which just keeps getting worse, air pollution, water pollution, hunting. I mean what can a Bald Eagle do about any of that?
We were almost extinct as a species over 50 years ago because of hunting and poisonous pesticides like DDT. Luckily people got mad about it and made the other people stop. Our numbers got better and our chicks were healthy again.
Now we are dealing with Climate Change that humans caused but did nothing to stop it.
We are really concerned about rat poison which is killing a lot of different animals especially predators like some mammals, birds and especially Bald Eagles. That stuff moves up the food chain and poisons us all. It is a horrible death too. It causes internal bleeding and we hemorrhage to death. Ahh! Who thinks of that stuff?
We have another problem that we couldn’t understand but recently your human researchers figured it out. We and many other animals, especially those of us who eat carrion, are dying from lead poison. The lead is coming from the bullets hunters use. It is in the animals they shoot and leave to die, then we and others eat it and the lead. It comes from the entrails of deer that hunters leave behind and the lead is all in our wild lands, our homes. Those bullets are all over the ground seeping into the soil in our water. Lead is highly toxic. It is a lethal heavy metal.
This is the kind of stuff we as an entire species and others as a part of the Natural World on this Planet worry about.
FN: Now that you have the opportunity to talk to people is there anything you would like to say to them?
Bald Eagle: I don’t know what to say. Many times I don’t understand them.
Humans don’t even consider us an endangered species anymore. I don’t know how they don’t. We are always in danger of humans and the destruction they cause. How can we not be endangered?
Why do you spend so much time destroying, killing, and poisoning our world? Don’t you have to live here too? Don’t you work hard to care for your children and keep them safe and healthy like we do? If so, why would you endanger them with you pollution and poisons?
Many people worked hard many years ago to stop the poisoning and shooting of my species and it worked. Now all those protections are being undone I am told. Where are all those wonderful people now?
We just want to live in peace and raise our families in clean healthy habitats with plenty of fresh air to fly through and clean water to fish in…and healthy nontoxic fish to eat. Is that really that hard for people to understand? Is it really that hard for people to do? I hope you think hard about what you are doing to this planet and all of us on it and find your compassion, your conviction. We need those nice people again.
As of July 1, 2018 according to Alt National Park Service:
“The latest version of the farm bill, narrowly passed by the House of Representatives last week. It contains dangerous handouts to the chemical industry and big agriculture. If enacted in its current state, the bill would have serious ramifications for small farmers, biodiversity, Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and public health. “
One of the 6 points they make that endanger wildlife and wild lands is…
“Wildlife at Risk: The Endangered Species Act currently requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service before approving a chemical that could harm protected species—a rule that helped ban DDT and bring species like bald eagles back from the brink. The farm bill trashes the requirement, putting endangered species, including pollinators like the rusty patched bumblebee, at risk of harmful pesticide exposure. “