Bald Eagle – Symbolic Feet Fighting Food Thief

How the Bald Eagle Became the Symbol of the United States 

In 1776, members of the Continental Congress passed a resolution saying the new nation needed a formal seal for official documents.

Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson comprised the first committee who would work on it.

Secretary of the Continental Congress, Charles Thompson designed the United States Great Seal in 1782. It symbolizes strength, unity, and independence.

Bald Eagle Habitat

According to iNaturalist, there have been four Bald Eagle sightings in the Deer Creek watershed so far this year – mostly concentrated around Lake Wildwood. I was excited to see one flying down the canyon near Newtown this spring, but with no camera in hand, I could only squeal with glee!

This raptor’s habitat includes all of North America, some parts of northern Mexico, and Canada. They prefer large lakes and rivers with plenty of fish and tall trees. Some populations are year-round residents along both coasts, along the Mississippi River, in the Rockey Mountains, and in Alaska. Other bird populations are migratory.


  • large predatory and scavenging birds
  • adult plumage – white head and tail feathers – appears between 4 to 5 years of age
  • females are larger than males
  • feet are adapted to snatching fish out of water
  • beaks are adapted to ripping flesh
  • food storage in crop – after a gorge, birds can go one to two weeks without eating
  • weights between 8 to 14 pounds
  • has a wingspan between 6.5 to 8 feet
  • fierce ‘expression’ is caused by a bony forehead ridge that protects eyes from branches and prey struggles
Eagles have multiple eyelids. The top one blinks up. The inner one – nictitating membrane – sweeps across. Eagle tears protect against saltwater, destroys bacteria, and prevent infections.


  • juvenile birds give way to their elders
  • parents don’t mediate sibling rivalry
  • feet have a ratcheting mechanism that allows them to clamp onto prey


Bald Eagles can travel 40 miles per hour in flight and 100 miles per hour in a dive! They have excellent eyesight, It is said that they have the ability to spot prey up to two miles away.


  • salmon and other fish
  • coots and other small birds
  • rodents
  • they’ll also steal carrion from other animals

Feet Fighting

Bald eagles use their best weapons to ward off attacks and fight for territory – their feet!

Late winter, during the time they’re getting preparing to mate, is when most of the territorial disputes occur. As habitat loss increases, territorial fighting increases in intensity.


Life Span

Twenty-eight years in the wild, 30 years in captivity.


Both males and females participate in sitting on eggs and parenting. A pair, while separating outside mating season, will come together year after year to mate and reproduce.

If one of the pair dies, the survivor will look for a new mate at the beginning of the next mating season.

Beeding season is between January through August.

Platform nests – aeries – are constructed at the tops of trees. They’re about 6’x6′ and can weigh over a ton! Eagle pairs will often return to their nest site.

A clutch consists of two to three eggs. Incubation is approximately one month.

After chicks have hatched, experienced parents ball their feet when entering the nest so as not to injure young with their talons.


  • habitat loss from road and housing developments
  • cars
  • mercury and other heavy metals
  • pesticides (DDT used for mosquito abatement)

Conservation Success Story

Bald eagles were the first animal to be placed on the endangered species list in the late 1960s. At that time, there were only 30 nesting pairs left in northern California. It was discovered that DDT caused thin eggshells. It was banned in 1972.

With conservation and management efforts, eagle populations recovered. The animal was removed from the endangered list in 2007.

Bald Eagles are still protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.



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California Department of Fish and Wildlife – Bald Eagles in California
Cornell Lab of Ornithology – Bald Eagle
National Museum of American Diplomacy – Great Seal of the United States
National Wildlife Federation – Bald Eagle
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – National Bald Eagle Management Guidelines
USGS – Todd Katzner, Supervisory Research Wildlife Biologist
Wikipedia – Eagle Eye
Wikipedia – Great Seal of the United States



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