Bald Eagles in Florida - Florida Wildlife Viewing Guide

Florida Bald Eagles

Bald eagles may be scarce in many states, but not in Florida

 

 

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Bald Eagles In Florida


the chances of seeing bald eagles on the nest are better in Florida than anywhere else in the lower 48 states.  Florida's bald eagle population in 2014 was 1,400 nesting pairs, up from about 667 nesting pairs in the early 1990s. Outside of Alaska, Florida has more nesting bald eagles than any other state in the nation.

Witnessed in real life, the bald eagle is more than an impressive symbol.  Capable of growing three feet in height and with a wing span of almost eight feet, it is a giant among birds.

The bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is unique to North America.  It belongs to a group of avians known as fish or sea eagles.  Of the eight fish eagles that exist worldwide, only one, the bald eagle, is found in the Western Hemisphere.

Young bald eagles are a mottled chocolate brown and white.  Their species' distinctive white head and dark body contrast aren't attained until the bird matures, in about its fifth year.  With all that white plumage, the eagle certainly isn't bald, and it was never considered to be.  The confusing name is based on an old, out-of- date usage of the word "bald," which also meant "white."

Florida's bald eagles are considered part of the southern subspecies which nests in Mexico, the southern Atlantic states, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona and southern California.  Southern bald eagles tend to be smaller than the northern subspecies, and they nest in winter instead of spring.

Eagles normally nest in the same area, and sometimes the same tall tree, year after year, yet they often travel thousands of miles between seasons. As primarily fish and carrion eaters, most of Florida's nesting eagles are found within a mile of a coastline or some permanent year-round body of water. Unlike ospreys, which are often confused for bald eagles, eagles usually avoid nesting in man-made structures such as channel markers, utility poles and the like.  They prefer live trees

Florida's bald eagles nest at a time contrary to that in other parts of the country.  Elsewhere, bald eagles nest in the spring and summer when food is at its most abundant.  Florida eagles, on the other hand, nest in winter when prey is plentiful throughout the peninsula.  For instance, in the dry winter season, fish are more concentrated when ponds shrink or dry up.

It's believed that bald eagles are able to spot items two or three times farther away than humans. Their vision, among the best of all living animals, is what the eagles rely on to hunt their prey. They typically use their feet to snare and kill their prey. 

When capturing another bird in flight, the eagle will fly below its prey, turns upside down and snatches the victim by its breast.  When fishing, the bald eagle is a stunning, majestic sight as it swoops down and grabs a fish with its talons, often not even getting its legs wet.

However, as Ben Franklin (who wanted the turkey as our national symbol) noted, bald eagles are of definite "bad moral character" since they steal food from other birds. The neighborhood bully, the bald eagle may swipe food from ospreys, which share the same kind of habitat, and they also steal from other eagles as well.

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