Bald eagle

Expand all

More names for this bird

Anishinaabemowin: Migizi

Dakota: Waŋbdi (eagle) or Anuŋkasaŋ (bald eagle)

The Dakota and Anishinaabe were among the earliest people to name Minnesota’s plants and animals, as well as to understand them in relation to Minnesota’s climate and seasons. Those original names are still in use, and several are included on the Season Watch website.

Latin (or scientific name): Haliaeetus leucocephalus

The scientific community has a convention of assigning agreed-upon Latin names to every kind of organism. Using scientific names helps people communicate confidently about the same organism and organize lifeforms based on how closely related they are.

Bald eagle flying against bare trees and a blue sky.
Bald eagle in flight.
March 18, 2022, Dakota County, Minnesota
Photo © jldm, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)
iNaturalist observation

About the bald eagle

  • An adult bald eagle is a raptor larger than a goose. It is dark brown with a white head and tail and yellow bill and legs.
  • Bald eagles mostly eat fish but will eat a variety of food depending upon availability. Some alternative foods include reptiles, birds, rabbits and muskrats.
  • Bald eagles commonly nest in forested areas next to large bodies of water.
  • Fun fact: Feast or fast! Bald eagles sometimes gorge, ingesting a large amount of food and digesting it over several days. They can also survive fasting for many days, even weeks.
  • Bald eagles migrate. Expand the "Migration animation" section below to learn more.

Expand all

Migration animation

Click the full-frame icon (lower right corner of video) to play at full size.

Video file

More about eBird's abundance animations

eBird data from 2006-2020. Estimated for 2020. Fink, D., T. Auer, A. Johnston, M. Strimas-Mackey, O. Robinson, S. Ligocki, W. Hochachka, L. Jaromczyk, C. Wood, I. Davies, M. Iliff, L. Seitz. 2021. eBird Status and Trends, Data Version: 2020; Released: 2021. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York.

Visual guide to phenology

Watch for bald eagles' presence (or absence), abundance, and behaviors at different times of year. Also, pay attention to when young-of-year hatch, fledge and develop.

Expand all

Note to observers

This page explains general clues to watch for when observing bald eagle phenology. However, this page does not explain how to identify this bird or collect data in a standardized way.

About twenty eagles perched high in bare trees above a river. A winter scene
A pair of adult bald eagles perched in a tree. The branches are bare of leaves but flower buds are present.
An adult eagle on a nest. The tree is bare of leaves and the sky is blue. Observed in the month of March.
Two adult bald eagles and one nestling in a nest. The tree is bare of leaves. Observed in the month of April.
Three bald eagle nestlings are in the nest. An adult is flying in the direction of the photographer. There are small green leaves on the tree and a pale blue sky.
Two nestling bald eagles in nest. The nest seems small because the young birds have grown so large.
Two adult and one juvenile bald eagles on ice that extends from a river's banks.

Graphs and historical data

Note: The Orientation Center provides a map, as well as information on reading graphs; interpreting summary statistics, who collected the data and how; and how to download datasets for independent exploration.

Itasca County

First young

  • Earliest: June 11 (occurred in 2010)
  • Average: July 12
  • Latest: August 8 (occurred in 2012)
Scatterplot showing bald eagle phenology in Itasca County, Minnesota

Download this dataset (.csv file)