The national bird of the U.S. was seriously endangered by the 1970s due to the effects of DDT and other
pesticides. It has made a gradual comeback since DDT was bannd, with populations
rebounding strongly since the 1970s. In June of 2007, a milestone was
reached when the Bald Eagle was officially removed from the Endangered Species
list. Bald Eagles can often be found around open water in the winter, including around
the Big Sioux River near Sioux Falls.
Typically near rivers or
large lakes. Generally found around water, but can be found in open dry
country, particularly during migration.
Mostly fish when available. When fish are scarce, may eat birds (ducks,
coots, others) or mammals (rabbits, muskrats, others). Very opportunistic, often
feeds on carrion or steals fish from other birds, such as Osprey.
Behavior: While Bald Eagles will sometimes steal prey
items from other birds, or feed on carrion, they also can be powerful hunters.
Nesting: Rare breeder in various
parts of the state. The nest of a bald eagle is a massive mound of sticks,
built in a tree or on a cliff, or sometimes on the ground on island habitats.
The female usually lays 2 eggs, and both parents help to incubate the eggs.
When the eggs hatch, both parents help to feed the young, but one parent
typically stays with the young for the first 2 weeks. The young fledge at
about 11 weeks.
Song: Both sexes utter gull-like
squealing cackle of kleek-kik-ik-ik-ik or lower kak-kak-kak.
coastal populations are permanent residents, but birds in the interior of the
country are generally migratory. Winters throughout the U.S., many birds
summer in Canada.
Status: The Bald Eagle has greatly expanded in numbers
since the 1970s. They are found across an extremely large geographic area and
have become relatively common in some areas even outside of Alaska and Canada.
The IUCN now lists the
Bald Eagle as a species of "Least Concern".
Similar Species: Juvenile similar to
Golden Eagle. Adult unmistakable in most of U.S.
range, although rarely the Steller's
Sea-Eagle or White-tailed Eagle have been found in North America, and could
be confused with a Bald Eagle if not seen well.
South Dakota "Hotspot": Winter
time below the Missouri River dams is great for finding concentrations of Bald
Eagles. Directly below Gavin's Point Dam has always been great for
me. There's one cottonwood tree on the south side of the dam (actually in
Nebraska) that almost without fail holds an eagle in the winter (I've seen up to
8 at one time in this one tree!). Just cross the dam to the Nebraska
side. The road will turn to the east. Just past the visitor entrance
to the dam is a fence you'll drive past. The Cottonwood tree immediately
on the left is where you'll likely see one or more Bald Eagles in the winter.
Anywhere near the dam (and open water) is great in winter, though. Note
that at least two nests are also found along the Big Sioux River within a few
miles of Sioux Falls.
Cornell University's "All About Birds - Bald Eagle"
E-nature.com: Bald Eagle
Photo Information: December 15th, 2002 -- Below Gavins Point Dam -- Terry L. Sohl
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