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Arizona Bald Eagles

Bald Eagle in Flight

Most famously known for being the United States of America's national bird, the bald eagle is highly recognizable with its white head and tail and brown body. A large bird, the bald eagle has an average wingspan upwards of eighty inches. Female eagles are larger than their male counterparts, but otherwise, both look alike and sport the same hooked yellow beak and yellow eyes. Recently removed from the Endangered Species and Threatened Species Lists for the contiguous United States, the bald eagle now thrives throughout Arizona and the country.

The Bald Eagle. America's National Bird

Bald Eagle Range and Habitat

Bald eagles are found throughout North America particularly in the Northwest Regions. Since their major diet is fish, bald eagles are primarily found near large bodies of water. Arizona bald eagles place their nests within a mile of a creek, lake, or river, however there are rare exceptions. Nests are placed mostly on cliff edges, rock pinnacles, and in cottonwood trees, however, artificial structures, junipers, pinyon pines, sycamores, willows, ponderosa pines, and snags of these trees also have housed eagle nests.

Arizona Baled Eagle Perched

Bald eagle breeding areas vary in size depending on the resources available and proximity of other breeding areas. Territory size, nest location, and resources are affected by availability of nest sites, the water system and diversity and abundance of food. Breeding areas on the regulated lower Verde River are the densest in the state with eight breeding areas downstream of Bartlett Dam above the Salt River confluence. At impounded lakes such as Alamo, Pleasant, and San Carlos where few fish exist in the source stream, they tend to forage within the lake's boundaries.

During the winter, bald eagles migrating to Arizona from the north are found in a variety of habitats throughout the state. The wintering bald eagles will follow the freeze line south to find more available prey. Large numbers are common at lakes and rivers along the Mogollon Rim area and east throughout the Arizona White Mountains. Bald eagles are not regularly found in large concentrations, but occasionally 30 or more bald eagles are present around Mormon Lake as well as Upper and Lower Lake Mary in the Flagstaff area. About 300 bald eagles migrate to Arizona in the winter each year.

Bald Eagle Behavior

Often referred to as sea eagles, bald eagles prefer a diet rich in fish. They will also prey on small mammals such as rabbits and raccoons as well as other bird species. Bald eagles prefer to nest in old-growth trees near their food source. Tall coniferous trees or hardwood trees are ideal nesting grounds for these birds who build the largest nests of any North American bird. Ideal trees for roosting bald eagles will have great visibility so that the birds can keep a sharp eye out for prey. Cliffs overlooking good hunting area are typical stomping grounds for bald eagles.

Bald Eagle Fledgings

Bald eagles mature and become sexually viable by age five and sometimes as early as age four. Scientists have determined that bald eagle pairs mate for life after a courtship filled with calls and flying displays. Unlike their northern relatives, Arizona bald eagles typically breed earlier in January and February. Female eagles will lay between one and three eggs per year. Both male and female incubate the eggs at turns. Hatching occurs after a thirty-five day incubation period. The fledgling period may last as long as ninety days.

Typically, about 45 days after leaving the nest, the young migrate to Canada and the Northwest states. Two and three year old bald eagles also migrate annually to these destinations. It is unknown where non-breeding four year old and adult bald eagles travel to in late spring and summer. One to three year-old sub-adults return to Arizona in September and October. Resident adults will stay in their breeding areas year-round, although local short-term migrations are common.

Arizona Bald Eagle Video

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