Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Samuel from Bellevue, NE. Samuel Wonders, “Why are they called bald eagles?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Samuel!
Not only is the Bald Eagle a prominent symbol of the United States, it is also the national bird. It can be found throughout North America, including most of Canada and Alaska, all of the continental United States, and northern Mexico.
Its scientific name is Haliaeetus leucocephalus. This name comes from the following four Greek root words: hali (salt), aeetus (eagle), leuco (white), and cephalis (head). Put all that together and the Bald Eagle is a white-headed sea eagle! It's the only sea eagle native to North America.
Bald Eagles are mainly brown with a white head and tail. You may be wondering why they're called "bald" when they obviously have white feathers on their heads. The name actually comes from an old English word — piebald — which meant “white-headed" rather than hairless.
Bald Eagles live near large bodies of open water. Since they mainly eat fish, they usually choose to nest in tall coniferous or hardwood trees near oceans, rivers, or large lakes with plenty of fish. Bald Eagles hunt fish by swooping down quickly to snatch them out of the water with their sharp talons.
Once an endangered species, conservation efforts in the past 25 years have led to significant increases in Bald Eagle populations. On June 28, 2007, the Bald Eagle was officially removed from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. Since it's the national bird, however, it still receives protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
If you get the chance to see a Bald Eagle in flight, it's a magnificent sight to behold. Soaring high on currents of rising warm air, Bald Eagles can reach speeds in excess of 40 miles per hour. When they dive for a fish in the water, they can reach speeds of over 75 miles per hour!
The Bald Eagle remains an important and often-used symbol of the United States. It is a prominent feature of the Great Seal of the United States. It also appears on most official United States government seals, as well as in many United States federal agency logos.