Bald Eagles are not really ‘bald’, the name comes from an older meaning of “white headed”. Eagles are found in all of the contiguous US, Northern Mexico, Canada, and Alaska. It is the National Bird and the National Animal of the United States. They were on the brink of extinction in the lat 20th century and were placed on the Federal Government’s Endangered Species List. They were removed the Endangered List in 1995 and transferred to the list of Threatened Species, and then removed from that list in the Lower 48 States in 2007.
The average wing span of an adult is 6-8 feet, are about 3 feet from tail tip to their head, and weigh between 8 and 15 lbs. Normal flight speeds are 30-40 miles per hour, but when diving, speeds can reach up to 100 miles per hour.
Bald Eagles in Utah are migratory, with as many as 1,200 visiting Utah from late November until early March, to escape the freezing in Alaska and Canada that makes hunting more difficult.
While fish are an important food source for Bald Eagles, road kill is the majority of the Bald Eagle’s diet in Utah during the winter months, including Rabbits and Mule Deer.
The Great Salt Lake and Wasatch mountains typically have the largest populations of Utah Bald Eagles, but there are also large numbers of them in the desert valleys of north central Utah, and along rivers in the eastern and southern areas of the the state.
Pairs of Bald Eagles, who mate for life, typically return to the same nesting spot in Utah, year after year. They build large stick nests, 3-5 feet wide, and each year they add new sticks to their nests. 1-3 eggs are usually laid, and both parents take part in the average 35 day incubation period. And although the young leave the nest at around 10-11 weeks after hatching, they remain dependent on their parents for a long time, as they learn how to hunt, and improve their flying.
Although Bald Eagles were removed from the Federal Endangered and Federal Threatened Species lists, they are still listed as a Species of Concern in Utah, and they are protected by the Utah Wildlife Code, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
In December 2013, 27 Bald Eagles died in Utah from West Nile Virus. West Nile usually affects birds (including Eagles) during the summer, when the virus is carried and transmitted by mosquitoes, so Wildlife Officials were at first puzzled by the deaths of the Eagles. The Bald Eagles apparently contracted the disease after eating inected, dead ‘eared grebes‘ at the Great Salt Lake. While the deaths of so many of these magnificent birds is tragic, Wildlife Officials did not expect it would have any long lasting overall effect on the majority of the Utah Bald Eagle population.
For more information about Bald Eagles in Utah, visit the links below:
Resident photographer Sue Wood captures awesome photos of Utah Wildlife, below is her collection of Bald Eagle Photos from over the years. The pictures were taken in and around Big Rock Candy Mountain Resort, and the Paiute ATV Trail, in Central Utah