The Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

The bald eagle is one of the largest of the raptor family. As a symbol of strength and freedom, the bald eagle appears on money, flags, and stamps. The Bible also makes note of its remarkable strength and speed in flight in various places.

Before the arrival of Europeans in North America, the bald eagle nested in 45 of the lower 48 states and it is estimated they may have numbered half a million. However, by the middle of the 20th century, the bald eagle had been brought almost to extinction. In 1950 there were only 412 nesting pairs in the contiguous 48 states. One of the major factors in the loss of population was DDT which was ingested by smaller animals which the eagles preyed on. The DDT resulted in weak egg shells that did not survive incubation. In 1972 DDT was banned in the United States and 1989 in Canada. This, along with laws to protect them resulted in a rebound in population. By the early 1980s the population was estimated at 100,000. Today, half of all bald eagles are to be found in Alaska.

The bald eagle has a wingspan of up to 8 feet and they weigh from 7 to 15 pounds with the female being about 25% larger than the male. They build the largest nests of any North American birds. The eagle will build a nest that is about 2 feet deep and 5 feet across. However, each year more material is added and they can eventually be more than 13 feet depth and 10 feet across and weigh more than a ton. Because of the size of the nests, there is generally no shade to protect the young. The parent birds, therefore, will spread their huge wings over the young eaglets to protect them from the sun. Similarly, during a driving rain storm its wings act as an umbrella, offering protection from the elements.

Bald Eagle in nest

The female will generally lay 1 to 3 eggs in the spring and the parenting chores are handled by both parents. The incubation period is 35 days and at 12 weeks, the young have reached full size. However, only about 50% of all young eaglets will survive their first year. Young eagles reach sexual maturity in 4 or 5 years and in the wild can live up to 30 years, though in captivity they may live longer.

Bald Eagle catching fish

Their diet consists largely of fish, though they have been seen carrying much larger prey, up to 12 pounds or more.

Eagles are known for their remarkable eyesight and the bald eagle is no exception. They can see fish in the water from several hundred feet up. Any fisherman will tell you how difficult it is to see fish under water from even a short distance. Their eye sight is at least 4 times as sharp as a human with perfect eyesight. It is believed that the eagle can identify a rabbit from a mile away. This means that an eagle flying at 1,000 feet can spot prey over approximately a 3 square mile area.

They are powerful flyers. While carrying fish they can fly at 30 miles per hour, but they reach 75-100 miles per hour in a dive. Riding thermals, they can quickly reach altitudes as high as 10,000 feet.

Bald eagle in flight

The eagle’s strength and swiftness of flight is noted in the Bible. God warned His people that if they persisted in evil, He would send armies against them that would come “. . .as swift as the eagle flieth.” Deuteronomy 28:49. God also warned against putting our trust in riches. He likened the speed with which the rich man’s wealth can dissipate in troublous times to the speed with which the updrafts of a storm can carry an eagle upward. “Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.” Proverbs 23:5. He also likened the ability of the eagle’s ability to overcome the law of gravity to the Christian’s ability to rise above sin by entering into Christ’s victory.


“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary;
and they shall walk, and not faint.”
Isaiah 40:31



The Eagle

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring'd with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

Alfred Tennyson


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