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In the United States, there are only two types of eagles that are commonly seen. However, there are two additional eagle species that you might see on rare occasions. These eagles are only seen in the remote Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska and extremely rare sightings in coastal regions of the continental US.
Eagles are such iconic creatures that one of them even became the symbol for America and freedom. They’re at the top of the food chain, swooping out of the skies to grab prey large and small. When you see an eagle soaring, it’s a majestic sight every time. But if you’re in Indiana, it’s a rather rare sight. Still, both types of eagles commonly found within the continental US can be seen in Indiana, even if only occasionally.
During the winter months, Bald Eagles can be seen just about anywhere in the continental US. However, during other times of the year, they’re restricted to much smaller areas. In the summer, you’ll only find these great giants in some small pockets of the US, including Florida, parts of the northernmost west coast, and a few other scattered areas. They tend to migrate north in the summer, so you’ll find them throughout Canada all summer long.
As the symbol for freedom on the Great Seal of America, the Bald Eagle has been the United States’ national bird since 1782. As juveniles, they look strikingly similar to Golden Eagles and are often mistaken for them. But as a Bald Eagle reaches maturity, their trademark white head and tail feathers make them one of the easiest birds in the world to identify; even to completely untrained eyes.
The Bald Eagle is a massive avian monster that dwarfs other large birds, including Turkey Vultures, Red-tailed Hawks, and even Great Blue Herons. Often, these majestic birds have wingspans over 80 inches! To put that in perspective, a six-foot-tall person stands at just 72 inches. So, a fully-grown Bald Eagle has a wingspan that’s about a foot wider than the average man is in height. If that’s not enough, they can weigh nearly 15 pounds, making them one of the largest avian species in all of North America.
Most often, you’ll find these winged giants soaring high in the sky near bodies of water, including lakes, rivers, and oceans. Their preferred food source is fish, though it’s not uncommon for them to also eat mammals and other birds. They often scavenge meals as well, stealing them from other birds or eating carrion and garbage they come across.
One interesting fact about Bald Eagles is that they build the biggest nests in the world! These birds use the same nests year after year, continually adding on to them over time. While these nests start out small, they can reach gargantuan proportions. In fact, the largest Bald Eagle nest over found weighed an incredible three tons! It was 10 feet wide and stood an insane 20 feet tall! These nests could end up even larger if it weren’t for physics. Eventually, a Bald Eagle’s nest will weigh too much for the tree that’s supporting it. When this happens, the nest will crash to the ground, forcing the eagle to start anew.
Adult Golden Eagles look very similar to juvenile bald eagles. They’re mostly brown with some lighter patches strewn across their bodies and wings. The easiest way to tell them apart from juvenile Bald Eagles is to look for feathered legs. Golden Eagles have legs that are completely covered in feathers, while juvenile Bald Eagles have feathers only on the top portion of the leg.
Unlike Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles prefer to eat mammals to just about anything else. Their main food sources include squirrels, rabbits, marmots, prairie dogs, and other small mammals. But if you think these eagles are limited to eating only small animals, you’ll need to think again. Similar in size to Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles have been known to kill some sizable creatures, including mountain goats, badgers, coyotes, seals, and even small deer!
Golden Eagles can have wingspans that range from 72-86.6 inches. That means that large Golden Eagles have a wingspan more than seven feet wide, making them the largest bird of prey in America. However, they’re not the largest bird in the country; that title goes to the California Condor with a wingspan of nearly 10 feet. Still, the Golden Eagle is a giant in its own right, weighing between 7-14 pounds. Don’t leave your little dogs or toddlers outside when there’s a Golden Eagle nearby! These birds can easily scoop them up for a quick meal!
You’ll most often find Golden Eagles in open country, though they do occupy a range of different habitats from deserts to arctic tundras and everything between. Generally, they remain in the western half of the United States, though you’ll occasionally find them flying around the eastern half of the country. It’s rather rare to spot a Golden Eagle in Indiana, though it does happen sometimes.
Interestingly, Golden Eagles mate for life. Males work hard to impress potential mates, dropping rocks and other objects from incredible heights and diving to catch it before the object can hit the ground. Once together, Golden Eagle pairs often hunt in tandem, with one eagle driving the prey towards the other eagle that’s ready to deliver the killing blow.
Many people mistakenly believe that Golden and Bald Eagles are endangered. Bald Eagles were once on the endangered species list, though they were removed in 2007 thanks to recovered populations. Still, both species are protected by government decree. The Bald and Golden Eagle Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) both ensure that eagle populations continue to flourish as it’s illegal to hunt them.
Golden Eagles are one of the most numerous eagle species of all. It’s estimated that there are between 170,000 and 250,000 Golden Eagles in the world. Their population is considered stable and their endangered status is rated as Least Concern.
The Bald Eagle population is currently increasing, and the species is considered one of the greatest successes of the Endangered Species Act. Today, their conservation status is rated as Least Concern.
Few creatures on earth share the majesty of a flying eagle. The Bald Eagle is such a majestic creature that it earned a place in history as the symbol of America and freedom. Golden Eagles are no less awe-inspiring though, with wingspans that can be more than seven feet across, allowing these birds to take out prey as large as deer. Though Golden Eagles are rarely seen in Indiana, both species can be found there if you know where to look and you find a little bit of luck.
Featured Image Credit: Pixabay
An avid outdoorsman, Dean spends much of his time adventuring through the diverse terrain of the southwest United States with his closest companion, his dog, Gohan. He gains experience on a full-time journey of exploration. For Dean, few passions lie closer to his heart than learning. An apt researcher and reader, he loves to investigate interesting topics such as history, economics, relationships, pets, politics, and more.
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