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Bald Eagle

Pygargue à tête blanche

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Bald Eagle

Facts about the Bald Eagle

Family : Accipitridae
Average Length: Males 76 to 86 cm
Average Length: Females 89 to 94 cm
Wing span: Males 1.75 to 2.10 m
Wing span: Females 1.98 to 2.25 m
Weight: 2 to 6 kg
Record Longevity: 21 years 11 months

  • Yellow bill, thick and heavy.
  • Legs partly feathered, yellow feet with large talons.
  • Wings are wide and long, ideal for soaring.
  • Plumage :  Body is dark brown almost black; head and tail are white; markings are identical in both male and female adults.
  • Eyesight is three to four times better than that of humans.

The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is among the largest birds of prey in Canada, with a wingspan of more than two meters.  It is the only fish-eating eagle that lives in North America.  Two thirds of the population live in Alaska and coastal British Columbia.

Less common in Québec, it is found mainly on Anticosti Island, and in and around large lakes and reservoirs in the Ottawa Valley and Abitibi-Témiscamingue regions.

Driven by hunger ... whatever the cost

Pygargue à tête blancheThe brood normally consists of 2 eggs that are dull white in colour.  The female lays the second egg 2 to 4 days after the first one; incubation begins as soon as the first egg is laid.  Both males and females incubate the eggs for a period of 35 days, and the chicks hatch one after the other.  If there’s not enough food available for both of them, the older chick may kill its younger sibling.

During the first month after the chicks are born, the male is the main provider of food.  By the time they are 6 or 7 weeks old, the chicks have learned to fend for themselves.


The Bald Eagle nests in very tall trees along the coast or on the banks of lakes and rivers, where it can be seen soaring majestically.  Pairs of eagles perform swooping aerial displays to mark the boundaries of their territory.  Bald eagles that nest in areas where the waterways freeze in winter are migratory.


Pygargue à tête blancheThe Bald Eagle is more of a scavenger than a predator, its diet consisting mainly of dead fish.  When it does attack live prey, it dives feet first, strikes its victim with its talons then returns, skimming the surface to snatch up the stunned fish.   When there’s a lack of fish, it eats any birds and mammals it can scrounge from other predators.  In the fall, bald eagles have been known to try and steal the bait from traps, which often leads to their demise.

It does feed on mammals, particularly deer carcasses, but mostly in winter.

A humongous nest

Of all the nesting birds in North America, the Bald Eaglebuilds the largest nest.  Both sexes contribute to its construction; it can be as much as 1.8 meters in diameter and more than a meter deep.  A stick nest made of branches and twigs, it is located in the upper branches of the tallest trees.While the chicks are still nesting, both adults are highly aggressive towards intruders.


Pygargue à tête blancheJuvenile bald eagles begin to fly, somewhat awkwardly, when they are approximately 10 to 12 weeks old.  Over the weeks, they gradually increase the distance between themselves and the rest of the family.  Some will spend their first winter with their parents.  Only when they reach the age of five and a half years, does the mottled plumage of immature eagles turn into the markings of adults.  A mere 20% of immature eagles survive to the age of three years.

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Pygargue à tête blanche à Québec

Par Pier Eau, 2014-09-10, 14h01

J'ai photographié un aigle à tête blanche ou pygargue dans la baie de Beauport le 3 septembre 2014. Il planait très haut mais il était visible pour ma caméra. Majestueux!

La pygargue à tête blanche.

Par Shirley, 2012-10-02, 14h01

Dans le village du lac du cerf, Qc. Il y a depuis des année déjà, des Pygargue à tête blanche. Ils y vivent tres bien et merveilleux a observer.

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