Hannah Hartsell and Celilo, Bald Eagle, photo by Craig Volpe

Bald Eagle

This majestic bird of prey, our national symbol, has a distinctive adult color scheme - white head, white tail, dark brown body, yellow eyes, and massive yellow beak. As with many other raptors, the female is larger than the male and the sexes look alike. It takes four years for immature birds to develop the characteristic adult plumage pattern, so identifying young birds can be confusing. Juveniles resemble Golden Eagles in being generally brown, but they lack the golden head, and their legs are only feathered halfway to the foot. Immature birds of both species are brown with areas of white; young Golden Eagles have areas of white on the tail and the base of the flight feathers, while young Bald Eagles show more variable patterns of white speckling. The Bald Eagle has a relatively large head, and long, straight-edged wings; young birds have broader wings and longer tails than adults. This eagle flies with slow, shallow, powerful wingbeats, and soars with wings held out flat.

 

Meet our resident Bald Eagles:

Aeolus was admitted to a wildlife hospital in Klamath Falls after colliding with a fence or power line in June of 1996. The collision caused a loss of circulation to the tip of his right wing, and subsequently the loss of the wing tip itself. By the degree of white feathers on his head and tail, as well as his yellow eyes and almost totally yellow beak at the time of his injury, we estimate him to have hatched in 1991. He was fully mature in 1997 when he joined the Cascades Raptor Center's Education Team. Aeolus is an avid nest builder and spends much of the spring incubating (infertile) eggs on his nest. He and his enclosure-mate carefully curl their talons under when walking near the eggs to avoid damaging them in any way.

Adoptive "Parents" of Aeolus:

Wayne Huck  

Hatched around 1988, Atticus came to the Raptor Center from an educational facility in Washington that was closing down. Originally part of a release program in Minnesota that aimed to increase Bald Eagle numbers in the wild, he sustained a wing injury and ended up back in human care when he was only a year old. Despite several release attempts, he was unable to thrive on his own and instead joined the education program at Georgia Southern University. Compared to most Bald Eagles, Atticus is quite small, and it's suspected that his genetics might actually originate in Florida where the warmer weather is associated with a smaller size in this species. Atticus is part of outreach team.​

Adoptive "Parents" of Atticus:
David Speicher  •  Don & Judy Teal  •  Royce and Tianna Sigloh
Oscar Zane Evans  •  Joann Ferrell & Gerry Hatleberg

Celilo was found in Nebraska in early 2002. She had a fractured humerus in the right wing, very close to the shoulder, that resulted in poor extension at her shoulder and an inability to fly. She was just beginning to get her white head and tail at the time of her injury, so was probably about 4-5 years old. She was with an education organization in South Dakota, and when they closed in 2010, she came to Cascades Raptor Center.  Celilo is an enthusiastic participant in her training sessions. At the conclusion of every session, she heads straight to her bath to clean her beak and talons. Celilo is part of the training as enrichment team.​

When Celilo came to the Raptor Center, she was 'named' by her new community. Nearly 400 people submitted 560 names for consideration. The winning name, 'Celilo', was submitted by Nola Nelson of Cottage Grove, in honor of the historic Native American settlement along the Columbia River – a gathering and trading place for tribes from as far as Alaska, the Plains, and the California coast for thousands of years. A uniquely Oregon name, Celilo was one of the oldest continuously occupied settlements in North America – for some 15,000 years. Its village and way of life, centered on salmon fishing along Celilo Falls, was drowned by the dams built along the river during the 1950's. This name represents resilience and triumph over setbacks, and is meaningful to Native Americans, for whom the Bald Eagle is a very sacred bird; for the United States – whose national symbol is the Bald Eagle; and for Bald Eagles themselves, as they have struggled to rebuild their populations since the devastation wrought by the pesticide DDT in the last century.

Adoptive "Parents" of Celilo:
Jim & Rene Purvine  •  An Admiring Friend  •  Ashley Blecke
Mountain Rose Herbs  •  Steve and Julie Hunnicutt
Ian Marriott  •  Barbara Holler  •  
Valerie Viterbi– in loving memory of my beloved husband, Alexander J Viterbi
An anonymous friend

McKenzie, an adult female, collided with a guy-wire of a cellphone tower in the summer of 2001 near Spokane WA. The injury caused serious damage to the right wing, exposing bone and tendon as well as causing feather follicle damage due to the loss of most of the secondary flight feathers. After medical treatment and rehabilitation at the School of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University, she was transferred to Cascades Raptor Center as an education bird in November 2001. By the few brown streaks in her otherwise completely white head and tail, as well as her yellow eyes and yellow beak, we estimate her hatch year as 1996. McKenzie lays (infertile) eggs every year. Her enclosure-mate, Aeolus, builds and improves their nest every year and spends a fair amount of time incubating the eggs. 

Adoptive "Parents" of McKenzie:

An Admiring Friend  •  The Davini Family
St. John's Church & School of Salem, Oregon
Sharon G Hayden– in honor of Judy Hayden
Zachary Hagengruber  

Notes

Scientific Name

Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Size

Length: 27 - 35"

Wing Span: 71 - 89"

Weight: 4.4 - 13.6 lb.

Status

State and federally protected, both under the Migratory Bird Treat Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Act; downlisted from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and scheduled to be taken off the list entirely, possibly this year.

Habitat

Wherever there is good fishing and foraging - near rivers, lakes, and seacoasts. They can also be seen in other areas during times of migration, following mountain ridges to catch thermal updrafts. In their wintering areas, they often form large communal night roosts.

Diet

These eagles primarily eat fish and waterfowl, but they are opportunistic foragers, and will eat a variety of food. Dead fish, carrion, and some mammals form part of their diet. Piracy is a favored technique also - letting other birds such as Osprey catch fish, then taking the meal away from them. They often hunt flocks of ducks or geese by herding them, then selecting one bird to tail-chase. Hunting from a perch is also common.

Call

Eagles are quite vocal around each other, giving soft kak kak kak kak sounds when chattering together, as well as various chirping whistles. Juveniles tend to have harsher, more shrill calls. Although usually quiet in flight, they will sometimes give a kya...kya...kya.... 

Nesting

Build large stick nests in the broken tops of old-growth trees, or on rock outcrops - usually with a waterfront view. A pair will return to the same nest year after year, lining it with greenery and building it up to giant proportions. Bald Eagles sometimes put on dramatic displays of whirling, talon-locking aerial combat and courtship during breeding season.

Most Common Problems

Birds with an eagle-sized wingspan are at great risk of electrocution on powerlines. Other common injuries include collisions with vehicles and powerlines, poisonings, and gunshot wounds.

Range Map

 

Found in North America from central Alaska and Canada south to Baja and northern Mexico; southern populations are depleted. Most leave the inland northern breeding grounds to form winter concentrations, especially along areas like the Chilkat River in Alaska, the Klamath Basin in Oregon, and the upper Mississippi River valley.

 

Special Thanks for range maps
Dan Gleason
BGleason Design & Illustration
Commercial & Scientific Illustration, Graphic Design

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