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Wild Personalities: Bald Eagle

Get to know America’s national bird

Order: Accipitriformes

Family: Accipitridae

Genus: Haliaeetus 

Species: Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Range: Endemic to North America, they can be found in every U.S. state except Hawaii

Population: More than 316,000

IUCN Red List Status: Least concern

Key Traits: White feathered head; long white tail feathers; dark brown body; bright yellow feet; hooked beak; can reach 34 to 43 inches and 6.5 to 14 pounds; average wingspan 6 to 8 feet. Juveniles: Brown body with brown and white mottled wings.

Not long ago, the bald eagle was on the endangered species list. Today, it is thriving throughout its North America home. Watch this video to learn more about this powerful predator.

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It's hard to think of a more iconic emblem of America than the bald eagle, with its majestic wings and gleaming white feathered head soaring across the horizon. But the country’s beloved national bird was on the precipice of extinction. It was named an endangered species in the 1970s, due to the devastating effects of DDT used as pesticides as well as hunters and trappers who targeted the bird. At one point, there were less than 1,000 bald eagles remaining in the world.

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AK757_R. Aaron Raymond.jpg
Alaska has the nation's largest population of bald eagles. If you're lucky, you can capture an iconic image like this one in the 49th State. Photo: R. Aaron Raymond

Today, however, the bald eagle is a true American success story. Removed from the endangered species list in 2007, it has been thriving throughout its endemic North America home and across the United States where they can be spotted in every state except Hawaii, with a population now well above 300,000.

To catch a glimpse of the bald eagle, keep an eye to the sky. These raptors are built to soar with their long wings held flat, wide, and horizontal to catch the wind. It’s easy to identify an adult from this unique open flight and also because their “bald” white heads (really just white feathers that look bald in contrast to their dark brown body feathers) and plumed white tails distinguish them from other birds of prey. Juveniles are harder to identify, however, since the first four years of life they have dark brown feathers covering their bodies, including their heads, and lightly colored abdomens, which make them resemble other raptors.

Watch the video above for more facts about this iconic bird of prey. >