Educating the public about the survival needs, habits, and care of bald
eagles is a priority for recovery projects. Every year, well-meaning
people unintentionally make the wrong choices or break the law in
trying to "help" wild animals. The more the public learns about bald
eagles, the less likely such mistakes will occur.
In this web site, you will find information about caring for
and handling bald eagles at different stages of development whether
they are injured, orphaned, or are in the process of being
rehabilitated. The age of the bald eagle is quite important because
humans may unwittingly disturb some of the basic processes of the life
cycle by interacting with eagles during particular stages of
For example, at birth baby eagles go through a process known
as imprinting, where they instinctively become attached to the first
moving object that regularly attends to their needs. Through
imprinting, young birds learn to identify with their own species.
During this period, the tiny eagle learns specific behaviors and habits
it needs to survive.
For bald eagles, this critical period is from nine days to six
weeks of age. Until it is nine days old, the chick's eyes cannot focus
well enough to distinguish humans from mother eagles. However, from
nine days and up to about six weeks of age, the baby chick will imprint
on a human if the human appears to be its food source. If this happens,
the eagle will be permanently imprinted on that person or humans in
general. This causes the eagle to look for humans to provide food.
Possibly a worse result is that, once mature, the imprinted eagle will
refuse to mate with other bald eagles.
On the other hand, trying to care for a bald eagle that has
already fledged (taken its first flight) may result in serious injury
to either the eagle or the person trying to assist.
To learn more about issues in the care of bald eagles, consult
the other sections at this site. Links to other sources will provide
information as well.