The bald eagle is one of nature’s success stories. After years of being listed as an endangered species, believed mostly to be due to pesticides interfering with their ability to lay healthy eggs, the bald eagle has persevered and is thriving in a variety of habitats today.
At least 750 congregate just outside Telegraph Cove on the northeast part of Vancouver Island in the spring and summer. Fall finds them by rivers and streams where migrating salmon swim upstream to spawn and then die. Fish being their favorite food, the bald eagle seems to prefer living near large bodies of water. They will, however, just as readily eat small mammals, like rodents and rabbits, even small dogs and cats
Made of keratin, an eagle’s talons or claws can apply up to 1000lbs of pressure per square inch (psi). That’s per talon! They are built to grasp prey securely while flying. Note the bumps and ridges on the feet; this adds traction so slippery fish cannot easily escape. The feathers don’t cover the entire length of the leg thus minimizing drag when it is pulling a fish out of the water.
Another notable feature of the bald eagle is its beak. Built to rip and tear, it is also made up of keratin, the same substance as its talons. Keratin is a protein and a major ingredient present in our hair, fingernails and teeth.
It takes about four years before the bald eagle gets its trademark white head. They go through a molting process where brown feathers are shed and are replaced with white ones.