Article and Photos by Kathryn Mann
For eight years I have enjoyed walking through an array of fields, meadows, forests, and wetlands throughout Oklahoma, and coming face to face with more than a hundred species of birds, but it was not until this year (2010) that I have been fortunate enough to see a Bald Eagle.
I met this Bald Eagle sitting on a log as he watched for fish in the Caney River outside of Bartlesville
The Bald Eagle is truly a majestic bird measuring about 3 feet from head to tail and weighing as much as 15 pounds. I saw several Bald Eagles this Winter and Spring in and around Bartlesville. None of them seemed particularly alarmed as I came within 15 yards of where they were sitting. I saw one speeding through the air one morning toward a fish in the Caney River. They can fly as fast as 60 miles per hour and dive even quicker at 100 miles per hour.
This Bald Eagle has spotted a fish in a nearby lake. She came soaring down more than 80 feet from a tall oak treee where she was perched.
The Bald Eagle has been the national symbol of the United States since 1782. These birds are found in every state in America except Hawaii. Bald Eagles mate for life and live an average of 20 years in the wild and 40 years in captivity. Bald Eagles remain brown until they are four or five even though they are often the same size as adults. It develops white head and tail feathers around the age of four or five. They stand at a height of 2½ - 3 feet tall and weigh about 10-14 pounds. Their wing span is 6-8 feet.
Bald Eagles have incredible eye sight. They can see objects clearly 1.5 miles away. The Bald Eagle is not bald. The name of the bird comes from the Old English world "balde" which means white. Adult Bald Eagles have a white head and tail with a brown body. The adult also has bright yellow eyes which I have seen up-close.
This American Bald Eagle seemed to be as curious about me as was of him.
The Bald Eagle's primary food source is fish, though they will catch and eat ducks, rodents, and snakes. The Bald Eagle has always been a rare bird. Even 200 years ago there were no more than 25,000 in the lower 48 states. By 1960 loss of habitat, hunting, and pesticides had reduced that number to less than 450.