Bald eagle flying in front of Longs Peak.

Photo by Dawn Wilson

This week’s featured animal is the bald eagle.

Bald eagles are the national symbol of the United States. In my opinion, they are a majestic and beautiful bird. But not everyone has the same opinion; Benjamin Franklin didn’t. After the bald eagle was named the national symbol of the U. S. in 1782, he declared the eagle as “a bird of bad moral character” in a letter to his daughter. Either way, bald eagles are a regular resident of Estes Valley with a pair making their home here year-round.

1. Bald eagles are not actually bald. The term derives from the old English word “balde” meaning white, which refers to the white feathers on the head of adult bald eagles. This white head of feathers develops by the age of five.

2. The bald eagle only lives in North America.

3. Unlike most animals, the female bald eagle is dramatically larger than the male—about 25 percent. This is because the male needs to be nimble for hunting while the female does most of the egg incubation and protection of the eaglets.

4. Many bald eagles migrate to Colorado in the winter to take advantage of our mild weather that keeps some waterways open and offers lots of small animals, like prairie dogs, for food. Estimates show that Colorado’s winter bald eagle population soars to more than 1,000. That is in addition to the 200 pairs of resident bald eagles that live here throughout the year.

5. A bald eagle’s wingspan stretches up to seven and a half feet from tip to tip.

Dawn Wilson is a professional and award-winning nature photographer who lives in Estes Park year-round. You can see more of her work, join one of her Rocky tours and purchase prints at DawnWilsonPhotography.com.

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