Eagles are a member of the Accipitridae family, which also includes hawks, kites and vultures. They are birds of prey that use their talons to fish; however, they also get a lot of their meals by scavenging or stealing prey from other predators. In fact, this thievery is part of the reason why Benjamin Franklin argued against the bald eagle’s nomination as the United States national symbol. While the bald eagle did earn its title as a national symbol, the species was almost wiped out by hunters and chemicals. A chemical, known as DDT, used to collect in fish that made up a good portion of the eagle and other birds’ diets. Although the chemical didn’t poison the birds, it weakened the birds’ eggshells and made it hard for them to reproduce. In 1972, the chemical was restricted and eagle numbers have recently gone from endangered to threatened.
The eagle’s nest is one of the biggest in the bird world. Eagles mate for life, so when a pair finds each other, they construct one high above the ground and together tend to a pair of eggs each year. Young eagles are dark and stay that way until they are about five years old when they get the signature white markings that make their parents distinct. This is also the time when they reach sexual maturity. Eagles live to be about 30 years old in the wild and can live up to 50 years old in captivity.
Fun Eagle Facts
-The largest eagle’s nest measured 9.5 feet wide and 20 feet high, weighing more than two tons.
-The bald eagle’s eyesight is five to six times sharper than a human’s.
-Eagles fly 20 to 60 miles per hour and can reach speeds of more than 100 miles per hour during dives.
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