American Eagle Foundation
VU Study » Behaviors

Eagle Behaviors

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 development.

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.