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Hawks, Eagles, and Falcons of North Dakota

JPG -- Picture of Species

Bald Eagle
Haliaeetus leucocephalus


The bald eagle is uncommon in North Dakota and is usually seen along the Missouri River in late fall/early winter and in the spring during migration to it's northern breeding grounds. It is similar in size and shape to the golden eagle but can be easily distinquished by it's white head and tail. Immature bald eagles, however, are almost completely dark brown and may be confused with immature golden eagles. Bald eagles do not acquire their white-colored head and tail until about 4 years of age. The bald eagle is currently listed as a threatened species by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The bald eagle feeds primarily on fish, either self-caught or stolen from other birds, especially ospreys. When fish are not readily available, it will feed on injured or crippled waterfowl, muskrats, squirrels, and rabbits. It is not uncommon to see bald eagles feeding on carrion or roadkill during the winter.

Nesting is initiated in March or early April. Nests are constructed by creating a stick foundation and lining it with mosses, pine needles, grasses, feathers, and other soft materials. Every year a new nest is created on top of the previous year's nest, which can result in nests being 7-8 feet across, 12 feet deep, and weighing hundreds of pounds. The female lays between 1 and 3 eggs and does most of the incubation which lasts about 35 days. It takes the young eagles about 72-75 days to fledge.


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