Short Story of the Bald Eagle

June 8, 2021

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The image of an eagle is usually associated with strength. In many countries, eagles are considered to represent majesty, grace, and power. Since 1782, a bald eagle has been a national symbol of the United States. In addition, for the centuries before that time, bald eagles were considered to be a spiritual symbol of the native population of the USA. At the same time, bald eagles remain one of the most infamous birds studied in the modern science. Despite their title, these birds are not really bald. The bald eagle is distinguishable by its white-feathered head and chocolate-brown body as well as wings. It is one of the largest birds in the United States with a wingspan reaching about 80.3 inches (Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 2015). The study of the species of bald eagles has gained an outmost importance. These birds not only represent an interesting organism but have become a symbol of the United States of America.

Before the discovery of America, bald eagles were considered to reach the population of about 500,000 birds. Their natural habitat was situated along the Atlantic Ocean, stretching from Labrador Sea to the southern part of Florida, and along the Pacific Ocean, covering the territory from Baja California in Mexico to Alaska. Bald eagles also inhabited the Northern American areas, which were rich in lakes and rivers. In some areas of the United States, the population of bald eagles was abundant. In particular, according to the researchers, bald eagle nested for every mile of Chesapeake Bay shoreline (Gerrard & Bortolotti, 2014). However, their population significantly reduced by the end of the 19th century. Bald eagles were disappearing with the expansion of human population westward. Nowadays, the species usually thrives in North America and some areas in Mexico. Bald eagles traditionally frequent the areas located near open water. They usually nest in large accessible trees as well as cliffs and self-made structures. The paces of bald eagles location predominantly depend on the availability of their food source. The primary food of bald eagle is fish, which they capture by hunting from a perch. Even through both sexes of bald eagles contribute to the production of the nest, the female do most of the placement (Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 2015).

The taxonomy of the bald eagle is quite interesting. The common ancestors that the bald eagle shares are the Diurnal birds of prey. The phylum that the organisms belongs to is named Accipitridae. Finally, the species name of the bald eagle is Haliaeetus leucocephalus, literally sea eagle with a white head(Center for Biological Diversity, n.d.). The birds specific appearance contributed to the adoption of the title bald eagle. In particular, the word bald was applied to describe the white head feathers that contrasted the birds body. At the same time, the young representatives of the species were often considered to belong to a different group of birds. As a result, the birds were often defined as the Washington Sea Eagles or the Birds of Washington (Gerrard & Bortolotti, 2014).

The bald eagle was first introduced by Linnaeus in the middle of the 18th century (Gerrard & Bortolotti, 2014). The bald eagle has two subspecies, such as the Northern bald eagle and the Southern bald eagle (Del Hoyo, Elliot, & Sargatal, 1994). The subspecies are defined as Haliaeetus leucocephalus leucocephalus, representatives of which inhabit the Southern United States and Mexico, and Haliaeetus leucocephalus alascanus, which live in the Northern United States and CanadaThe amount of the Northern bald eagles is bigger than the amount of the Southern ones. In addition, the bald eagle has a number of similarities with other species. In particular, it is often compared to the Eurasian white tail eagle. In addition, the bald eagle is supposed to be related to the hawks, buzzards, and vultures.

Bald eagles normally consume fish and carrion. However, as settlers started to occupy nearby territories where the eagles thrived, bald eagles began to hunt small domestic animals, such as lambs or birds (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2007). As a result, many bald eagles were killed in order to protect the domestic animals from becoming their prey. The population of the species began to decline at an increasingly rapid rate. By the middle of the 20th century, Congress passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act after noting that bald eagles ware under the threat of extinction (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2007). However, by the end of the 20th century, bald eagles succeeded in increasing their population.

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Bald eagles become mature at the age of five or six years. When the birds get old enough to start breeding, they come back to the territories they were born. In order to attract a mate, bald eagles take part in dramatic aerial courtship displays. It is considered that bald eagles mate for life. However, the birds can split and find a new couple in case they cannot succeed in breeding. In addition, when one of the mates dies, the other can look for a new one. Usually, a couple of bald eagles occupies a territory near the open water, which encompasses from 1 to 2 km. A couple builds a nest, and a female lays one to three eggs. The duration of the incubation period is usually from 34 to 37 days. Newly hatched eagles do not have typical for the species white-feathered heads. The whole body of the birds is covered with light gray feathers. Bald eagles develop white feathers at the age of four or five (Del Hoyo, Elliot, & Sargatal, 1994).

If the numbers of bald eagles continue decreasing, ecological consequences will take place. Each member of an ecosystem contributes to its well-being and its ability to thrive successfully. The bald eagles main purpose is to keep their ecosystem food web constant. In other words, bald eagles occupy the top of the food chain so they have little or even no natural predators above them. By eating smaller animals, such as fish, ducks, coots, etc., they are promoting a balance within their environment. As a natural predator to these smaller organisms, the bald eagle prevents their overpopulation. For example, if bald eagles were completely extinct, their once-natural prey would increase in number, thus disrupting the balance of the ecosystem as a whole. Thus, bald eagles perform a sanitation role in the ecosystems. However, bald eagles are also considered to represent a threat to certain smaller animals, mainly salmon. Indeed, during 1917-1953, more than 100 000 birds were killed in the northern part of the United States as they hunted large amounts of salmon (Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 2015).

The bald eagle has many features that make it an interesting organism and allow it to adapt to its environment and effectively survive. One adaptation is its beak, which is very strong, thick, and sharply pointed allowing the bird to rip into its prey effectively. The beak is also wide enough at the gape, which allows the eagle to swallow large chunks of food (Journey North, 2015). When it comes to prey, bald eagles sometimes ingest a large amount of food and digest it over several days. In some cases, they can actually live without food for several weeks. In addition, even though the beak is primary meant for ripping prey apart, the bald eagle can use it to carefully tend to its offspring. Another notable adaptation is the eyes of the bald eagle. The bird can see clearly in the daylight. For example, a fishs silhouette may be refracted differently in the water, but the eagles sharp vision allows it to catch its prey without much trouble (Journey North, 2015). The bald eagles eyes have adapted to the peculiarities of their place of habitat.

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Thus, the bald eagle is an interesting organism. Not only does it have a top position in the chain of food supply, but also it is still being widely protected even though it is no longer belongs to the number of endangered or threatened species. There are individuals who argue that the country is spending too much money on saving a non-endangered bird. In the past years, the bald eagle was at a point when the species was at risk of becoming completely extinct. Considering the fact that eagles are at the top of the food chain, they play an important role in their ecosystem. Overall, bald eagles deaths can prove to be very adverse to biodiversity as a whole. Despite the fact that bald eagles are not threatened with the extinction nowadays, they will still be protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2007). In addition, according to the provisions of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the bald eagle is supposed to be the greatest visible symbol of the spirit of freedom and democracy in the world and represent the American values and attributes of freedom, courage, strength, spirit, loyalty, justice, equality, democracy, quality, and excellence (U.S. Congress, 2004).