The bald eagle is the only eagle unique to North America.

Its distinctive brown body and white head and tail make it easy to identify as our national symbol, even from a distance. Under the Endangered Species Act, the bald eagle’s recovery was made possible through captive-breeding programs, reintroduction efforts, vigorous law enforcement and habitat protection—including the designation of national wildlife refuges and the protection of nest sites during the breeding season.

The recovery of the bald eagle shows that when we work together, we can make conservation miracles happens. To ensure that our national icon never ends up back on the endangered species list, the Fish and Wildlife Service is required to continue to monitor the eagle’s status and to use its authority under the Endangered Species Act to prevent significant threats from driving the species back toward extinction. Moreover, eagles will still be protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Defenders' Impact

Now that the bald eagle is no longer on the Endangered Species list, we must ensure it is adequately protected against reckless development and other threats that can disturb eagles and affect their survival.

Defenders is currently involved in protecting the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) from those in power who want to weaken it. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt was instrumental in changing enforcement under the MBTA - allowing companies to forego practical best management practices to protect birds as they no longer face enforcement for failing to do so, and we are fighting this directive in court.

We also promote “Smart from the Start” renewable energy siting, to keep wind farms out of migratory pathways and promote innovative technology that deters eagles and other birds from turbines.


Illegal shooting and lead poisoning are among the primary threats to bald eagles. Habitat loss, power line electrocution and wind energy also play a role in eagle deaths.

Protection Status
Endangered Species Act
IUCN Red List
 Least Concern
What You Can Do

Encourage hunters to seek out lead free, non-toxic ammunition. Adopt “No Trace” ethics and organize clean-up activities in eagle habitat. Do not disturb nesting eagles. Support “Smart from the Start” renewable energy siting.

Latin Name
Haliaeetus leucocephalus
6-7-foot wingspan
20-30 years

Bald eagles live near bodies of water in Canada and Alaska, and in scattered locations all throughout the lower 48 states and Mexico. 


As a result of conservation efforts, the bald eagle population has risen from a mere 417 nesting pairs in 1963 to more than 71,400 nesting pairs and an estimated 316,700 individual birds in the Lower 48 today.


Bald eagles make a high-pitched squeaking sound. Other interesting behaviors include “talon clasping” or “cartwheel display”, where two eagles clasp each other’s talons in mid air and spin down, letting go only when they’ve almost reached the ground. This is may be a courtship ritual as well as a territorial battle. 


During breeding season, the male and female work together to build a nest of sticks, usually located at the top of a tree. The nests can weigh up to a ton and measure up to 8 feet across. Once paired, bald eagles remain with each other until one mate dies, then the surviving bird will find another mate. 

Mating season: Anywhere from late September to early April, depending on the region. 

Gestation: The female lays her first egg 5-10 days after mating. The eggs are incubated for about 35 days. 

Clutch size: 1-3 eggs. 


The bald eagle is not picky about how it gets its food. It will eat carrion, steal fish from other birds or hunt for its own. Their most important non-carrion food is fish, which they catch by swooping down and grabbing fish that are near the surface of the lake or stream. 


California condors in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Washington, DC

Biden To Reverse Two Harmful Trump Rules That Limited Endangered Species Act Protections

The Biden administration announced it is reversing two harmful Trump administration rules that undermine the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the bedrock law that protects our nation’s wildlife from extinction. Broadly, the two rules had altered the way critical habitat is designated.

Wildlife and Wild Places

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