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Eagle Survival - Habitat or Environment

The most essential component of the bald eagle habitat is a foraging area. Large open areas of lakes, rivers, shorelines, or other sources of open water are needed where prey can be hunted and eaten. The bald eagle, also known as the sea eagle, has a diet consisting of 70-80% fish or other aquatic life; therefore, the water provides its major source of food.

Perhaps because of its great size, the bald eagle requires a lot of space. Bald eagles defend nesting territories ranging from 275 to 3,200 acres with an average of about 500 acres in areas with high population densities. Bald eagles live alone until they mate. The only time the bald eagle tolerates the presence of other bald eagles is during winter migrations when large groups of bald eagles gather in one place to share an available food source.

The bald eagle's range, or where the bald eagle lives and nests, covers all of North America including Canada and Mexico. Historically, the bald eagle lived in all 48 lower states. Bald eagle populations have never been endangered in Alaska where they remain abundant despite many attempts by man to destroy those populations. The only U. S. state where bald eagles are not present is Hawaii.

When the bald eagle mates, after it reaches maturity around 4 to 5 years of age, it will return to within 75 miles of its first flight to build a nest. The bald eagle mates for life and usually will stay with its first mate until death - the eagle's or its mate's. This nesting pair will select an environment that provides for the basic bald eagle necessities: food and water, nest, perching, and roosting.

The bald eagle's nest is large, sometimes weighing up to two thousand pounds. The nesting tree must be able to support such a large nest. In addition, the nesting tree usually is high enough to protect young eaglets or eggs from predators and to enable the bald eagle to catch the wind for the fledging eaglet's first flight. The surrounding area must allow an open flight path to and from the nest, so the nesting tree usually can be found in an area with sparse foliage or near trees with dead and broken limbs.

The nesting tree must also allow the eagles to be in view of its food source - a large body of water. Eagles typically nest in trees an average of 375 yards away from the water, but nests have been located as far away as 2 miles. The more human activity in an area, the further away the eagle nest will be. Nests are usually located 4 to 6 yards below the treetop under an umbrella of protective foliage.

Since adult bald eagles spend about 90% of their time perching, or sitting, the ideal environment for an eagle includes an area where they can hunt, loaf, protect, and keep a look out for dangers. Eagles typically perch on the tallest trees along a shoreline, preferably in the top of the tree in branches that are horizontal, thick, and easily accessible.

In addition to a perch site, the ideal eagle environment includes an area where bald eagles can rest and sleep at night. The perch trees may be used for roosting, but shelter from bad weather is a primary use for the roosting area. In many areas, eagles prefer a sheltered roost with tall conifers, easy flight access, and clear views. The roosting tree may be as far as 17 miles away from the water.

Although the bald eagle's diet consists largely of fish and other aquatic life, like humans, eagles need to eat a balanced diet. Thus, the ideal environment for a bald eagle includes access to other food sources such as small mammals and waterfowl as well as fish.

For a species to survive it must have food, shelter, and protection from its enemies. Since the adult bald eagle has no known natural predators, the only other species that poses a threat is man. It is up to us to ensure that the bald eagle meets its basic habitat requirements.