Our Birds

Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus

FUN FACT

Bald Eagles are some of the largest birds in North America. Bald Eagles from the northern portions of their range are larger than individuals in the southern limits of their range. Like most raptors, females may be up to 30% larger than males.  Overall, the species ranges in size from a 5.5 foot wingspan up to a nearly 8 foot wingspan depending on the sex and origin of the bird.

The Bald Eagle is one of the most readily recognizable birds in North America. They are also one of the largest, with the biggest females reaching 13 pounds or more. And, since 1782, the Bald Eagle has been the national bird of the United States. Bald Eagles are also one of the most well known conservation success stories in the world.  In the mid-20th century, Bald Eagle populations suffered a steep decline as a result of persecution, habitat loss, and the introduction of a pesticide called DDT. Large predators, like Bald Eagles, ended up with high concentrations of DDT in their bodies, affecting the birds’ ability to lay eggs with properly formed shells.  By 1978, it only an estimated 400 Bald Eagle pairs remained in the continental U.S.

Under the protection of the Endangered Species Act, and with reintroduction efforts and the ban of the use of DDT, Bald Eagle populations recovered. In 2007, the Bald Eagle was officially removed from the federal Endangered Species list, though it remains threatened in Pennsylvania. There are more than 200 known breeding pairs in Pennsylvania, including two nests in the greater Pittsburgh area, at the Hulton Bridge in Harmar and the Keystone Iron & Metal in Hays.

The Bald Eagles at the National Aviary sustained injuries in the wild that would limit their chances of survival in the wild. They have a comfortable home at the National Aviary where their every need is met, and they serve as ambassadors for their species.

Bald Eagle

Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Nearctic

Habitat

Typically found near large bodies of water, including shorelines and coastlines, and usually near wooded areas; also utilizes open agricultural fields and marshes

Diet

Opportunistic foragers, eating a variety of live fish, bird, and mammal prey; fish stolen from other piscivores (animal that eats fish); scavanged fish and mammals

Status

Least concern

Breeding

Bald Eagle pairs together build among the largest of all bird nests, usually in the main fork of a tree, but also on the ground and on cliff ledges in treeless areas.

Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos

FUN FACT

The Golden Eagle was considered to be the messenger of the gods in Roman and Greek mythology.

The Golden Eagle, named for the golden feathers on its nape, is a resident of the Holarctic region of the New and Old Worlds, and occurs in a wide variety of open habitats, from desert areas to the edge of the tundra, and from sea-level to high alpine mountain levels. It is one of the largest birds in North America. It generally avoids forested areas, except in the winter, and nests on cliffs, isolated trees or other structures. The Golden Eagle forages primarily on small to medium-sized mammals. Although not considered to be globally threatened, this species is frequently a victim of shootings and poisonings. Many are killed by collision with power lines and, in certain areas, wind turbines.

Golden Eagle

Aquila chrysaetos
Nearctic Palearctic

Habitat

Variety of open habitats including mountains, plateaus and steppes; generally avoids wooded areas, except in winter

Diet

Small to medium-sized mammals, especially hares and rabbits

Status

Least concern

Breeding

Golden Eagles nest on cliffs and occasionally on trees or human-made structures offering a wide view of the surrounding area. Females incubate 1-3 eggs for 42 days. Parents care for young for 2-3 months after they fledge.

Martial Eagle Polemaetus bellicosus

FUN FACT

The Martial Eagle is sometimes called the “leopard of the air,” both for its spotted pattern and its ferocious efficiency as a predator. They are one of the strongest eagle species in Africa, able to knock an adult man off his feet!

A large and powerful eagle of Africa, the Martial Eagle is found in sparse woodlands and other open habitats such as steppes, savannas, and shrublands. Martial Eagles are extremely powerful predators, feeding on medium-sized vertebrates which they catch after stooping from a high soar. Martial Eagles build large stick nests in the fork of a tree, and their young often stay with their parents for an entire year. Despite generally avoiding settled areas, this species is rapidly declining due to poisoning and shooting, habitat loss, and pollution, as well as collisions and electrocution associated with power lines.

Martial Eagle

Polemaetus bellicosus
Afrotropical

Habitat

Prefers sparse woodlands and woodland edges; also other open habitats such as deserts, steppes, savannas, grasslands, and shrublands; generally avoids settled areas.

Diet

Mainly medium-sized vertebrates, such as gamebirds, waterfowl, and hornbills; also monitor lizards, hares, hyraxes, mongooses, monkeys, and small antelopes, depending on the foraging habitat

Status

Vulnerable

Breeding

Martial Eagles build large stick nests (c. 2m across and 5-70 m above ground) in the main fork of a tree; in open areas they will nest on power pylons, cliffs, or boulders. Active nests, visible from a great distance, are lined with fresh green leaves. One egg (rarely 2) is incubated for 47–53 days; young fledges in 96–104 days and may remain with the parents for up to a year after fledging.

Steller’s Sea-Eagle Haliaeetus pelagicus

FUN FACT

The Steller’s Sea Eagle and the Bald Eagle are both members of the genus Haliaeetus (the fish-eating eagles), making them close cousins even though the average Steller’s is nearly twice the size of the average Bald Eagle!

The Steller’s Sea-eagle is a fierce, impressive raptor with chocolate-brown plumage and striking white shoulders and tail. With its deep, strongly arched bill and massive yellow feet, it’s no wonder that the Japanese call this bird O-washi (The Great Eagle). At nearly four-feet in length and an average weight of 13-20 pounds, Steller’s Sea-eagles are one of the largest eagle species in the world, outweighing both the Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja) and the Philippine Monkey-eating Eagle (Pithocophaga jefferyi), and with a wingspan second only to its near-cousin the White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla). Not surprisingly, an adult Steller’s Sea-eagle has no natural predators. The species is vulnerable to changes in its habitat and food supplies, however. This huge eagle needs an equally huge territory, so the Steller’s population (which is not large) is widespread and particularly sensitive to habitat loss due to climate change. Threats to already declining Pacific Salmon populations translate into potential prey shortages during the all-important breeding season.

Steller’s Sea-Eagle

Haliaeetus pelagicus

Habitat

Often near mouths of rivers, along seacoasts, on rivers where salmon run, by lakes; most often river valleys and on rocky coasts with terraced cliffs

Diet

Principally fish, especially Pacific salmon, taken alive or dead; supplemented with scavenged mammals and birds when fish is in short supply

Status

Vulnerable

Breeding

Steller’s Sea-eagles build large stick nests about 2.5 meters wide and 4 meters deep in trees or on cliffs up to 30 meters above ground. Females incubate a clutch of 1-3 eggs for 38-45 days; chicks fledge after 70 days and remain dependent on parents for 2-3 months.

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