American bald eagles are family birds

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The American bald eagle is a large bird of prey that lives for up to 30 years in the wilds of North America. A male and a female will become mates for life and may nest in the same tree for many years. When a nest is built, the pair will work diligently piling sticks into the strongest limbs of a big tree. When the nest is about five feet across, it will be big enough for the eggs to be laid.

Each year new sticks and nest materials are added to the nest until after many years the nest can become enormous, possibly reaching a weight of as much as two tons. Adult American bald eagles can weigh about 10 pounds and can carry sticks and prey that weigh up to about four pounds.

My photo here, taken June 13, shows a juvenile flexing its wings in preparation to leave its nest. Since it takes about three months from hatching until flying from the nest, it can be estimated that the eagle in this photo hatched in early March.

A juvenile American bald eagle will stay near the nest site for several weeks after learning to fly. It will learn to hunt by watching its parents as they hunt. The parents will continue to stay nearby and sometimes feed their inexperienced offspring. A juvenile American bald eagle has brown and white mottled feathers. Its head and tail feathers will turn white and its beak will turn yellow at about age 5 when it becomes a mature adult.

Through the Woods is a weekly nature photo column by Aaron Horrell. Find this column at to order a reprint of the photo. Find more work by him at the Painted Wren Gallery.

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