Bald Eagle Facts & Info

Bald Eagle

The adult bald eagle is one of the most easily recognized species of wildlife.

  • It has snow-white feathers covering its head down to the neck area.
  • The tail feathers of the mature bald eagle are also white.
  • The body color is very dark brown, almost black.
  • Yellow eyes, beak, and feet accent the bird’s appearance.
  • The white of the head and tail distinguish the fully mature eagle from immature birds of the species. Young eagles do not have this appearance until they reach the age of five or six years. Until that time, they are decidedly duller in appearance and, to the inexperienced observer, probably would not be recognized as a bald eagle.
  • Immature eagles are almost uniformly dark brown from head to tail feather. Their undersides are mottled white with buff and cream blotches.

 

The Bald Eagle occurs in marshes, swamps, and river systems throughout Ohio. Eagles have continued to recover from a low of 4 breeding pairs in 1979. In 2018, the number of estimated breeding pairs increased to 286, and pairs produced an estimated total of 445 young. In the past 5 years (2014-2018), the estimated average number of nests was 224, and the estimated average number of young was 334. This year’s growth in breeding pairs was around 30%, which is unusually high compared to the 5-year average increase of 9%. Bald eagles now nest in all but a handful of Ohio’s counties.

Please remember that even though eagles are no longer listed as state or federally endangered or threatened, they are still protected by the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and state law. The mid-late winter nesting period is a critical time for eagle reproduction and every effort should be made to reduce interference. Many nests are located in State Wildlife Refuges and access is not allowed. Other areas may also be posted as “No Trespassing” areas. Lastly, please observe posted signs and remember that private property may not be entered without the landowner’s permission. Pleasant Hill Lake has two (2) nesting pairs in the lake area.

 Although mid-winter may seem like a cold and dreary time to be outdoors, it can be one of the most rewarding times to view one of our nation’s symbols, the bald eagle. In mid-winter, frozen lakes and rivers often force Eagles to expand their hunting grounds in search of food. Also, many of the species preyed upon by eagles are hibernating or hiding under a thick blanket of snow. Because of this, eagles are often seen in non-traditional areas during this period. They can be seen roosting along rivers, sitting on frozen lakes or even in open farm fields. Their large size and dark bodies are easy to spot against the white snow and ice.

Along with other state and federal agencies, the ODNR, Division of Wildlife participates in an annual mid-winter survey of bald eagles. In 2019, the ODNR, Division of Wildlife staff counted a record-setting number of 230 immature eagles and 210 adult eagles, for a total of 440 bald eagles. This is a 75% increase over last year’s total of 252 eagles. While this suggests that Ohio’s eagle population is on the rise, it may also indicate a favorable response of wintering eagles to Ohio’s recent period of wet weather and somewhat mild winter. Pleasant Hill Lake and US Army Corps of Engineers provide updated data and monitoring of the nests.

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