eagle FAQ's



 1) How many young are generally raised by a pair of adults in a typical year?
Eagles typically lay one to three eggs at one time. About 50% live to the fledging (flying stage).

2) How big is an eagle nest?
One of the largest eagle nests ever found was 20 feet deep and ten feet wide? The average nest width is about five feet, and this one is a little larger. Here, as in most eagle nests, the adults return each year and expand the nest. 

3) What do juvenile bald eagles look like?
See photo 1. Many new bird watchers mistake juvenile bald eagles for other species. Juveniles start with a very dark body (including head, tail, beak and eyes) and variable white mottling on their armpits, wing lining and sometimes undertail. They don't get their well-known adult coloring until they are four or five years old.

4) Is that the white head that is already starting to develop?
See photo 2. The white on the top of the head is still its baby fuzz. The head and tail start out the same dark brown color as the rest of the body and do not turn fully white until they reach maturity at about 5 years of age.

5) How do parents divide responsibility for their young?
See photos 3-5. Before baby eaglets hatch, there is always one parent in the nest to incubate the eggs and protect them from predators. The parents share incubation obligations for about 35 days. The female spends more time in the nest than the male. When the eaglets have newly hatched the female spends almost all of her time devoted to them and stays in the nest with them. But eventually she shares hunting duties with the male.

6) When do the parents stop regurgitating the food and start feeding the baby meat directly?
The young are directly fed the raw meat from the day they are hatched. Eagles do not regurgitate food like some other animals do.

7) When can eagles start feeding themselves?
Adults will feed their babies until the eaglets are about five weeks old when the eagles can begin to tear at their food.

8) How fast do eagles grow?
Eagles grow fairly quickly—young birds can gain about a pound of weight per week until they start to fly.

9) How many eagles survive their first year after hatching?
Only about 50 percent.

10) When can eaglets start to fly?
An eagle can take its first flight, some 10 to 13 weeks after hatching—when downy feathers are replaced by juvenile feathers.

11) How fast can eagles fly?
An eagle flies at approximately 30-55 miles per hour and can dive at 100 miles per hour.

12) How do they fly?
Eagles use rising warm air currents to soar for hours. Soaring conserves the bird's energy, which is especially helpful in long migration periods.

13) How do eaglet brothers and sisters compare to each other? How large do eagles grow?
Eaglets can vary in size and age. Eggs are laid a few days apart and consequently hatch in the order they were laid. Female eaglets tend to be larger than their male counterparts. Like most birds of prey, the female adult is also larger than the male.  Adult eagles range from 33-35 inches long for males and 35-37 inches for females. The average wingspan is about 7 feet!

14) How strong are they?
Eagles can lift up to four pounds of food to bring back to the nest.

15) Where do eagles nest once they reach adulthood?
Juveniles, especially males, return to the area they were born and will nest nearby once they reach adulthood. Sometimes, it appears young eagles will return and act as "helpers" to the nest.

16) How do they get the nest started?
One stick at a time! We suspect that this eagle nest is about seven feet wide and five feet deep. The average width is about five feet. One of the largest eagle nests ever found was 20 feet deep and ten feet wide. It weighed two tons! Most eagles come back to their nests each year and add new nest material, including twigs, mosses, grasses, feathers and more. For some other interesting facts on nests, please visit the teaching aide on nests at the HawkQuest website and choose "Home is Where the Chicks Are."

17) How committed are a bald eagles to their partners?
Bald eagles mate for life, but if a partner should die, the other won't be reluctant to find another mate.

18) What does the bald eagle’s diet look like?
The bald eagle diet consists mainly of fish. They will eat salt water or fresh water fish, which explains why bald eagles live throughout North America and why they can be found around lakes and rivers in Iowa. Eagles will eat small animals, too. They are scavengers and will take advantage of already dead animals.

19) Why are the called “bald” eagles?
Bald eagles are sometimes thought to actually be bald. This is not true; their head, neck and tail are covered by white feathers. The word bald is derived from balde, an old English word that means white.

20) How long do eagles live?
In the wild, bald eagles live for approximately 15 to 20 years. They can live longer. In fact, some eagles in captivity have been known to live for 50 years

21) How many eagle nests are there in Iowa?
Iowa now has at least 210 active eagle nests in at least 80 counties.

22) Where can I see eagles?
If you enjoy seeing eagles, try attending one of many organized "eagle watches" in Iowa this winter. Some of the most popular eagle watches are held in the Quad Cities, Dubuque, Keokuk, Muscatine, Pella, Red Rock and Saylorville.