From the American flag to the Statue of Liberty to the Liberty Bell, there are many important symbols of the United States. One of the most beautiful, though, has to be the majestic Bald Eagle.

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 Eagles 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.


37 Join the Discussion

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    • Way to go, Rahul! You are a super smart Wonder guesser! We can’t wait to find out if you are right about tomorrow’s Wonder…we think we might all be in for some WINTERTIME FUN! :-)

  1. Dear Wonderopolis,
    That was a cool video! A bald eagle is just the name of a bird, they aren’t literally bald. I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about space.
    Paige ;)

    • That’s an AWESOME guess, Paige! We’ll be sure to check first thing in the morning to see if you are correct! Thanks so much for guessing what you think tomorrow’s Wonder might be about! :-)

  2. Dear Wonderopolis, my name is Riley O. I didn’t know Bald Eagles were sea birds! Wow!
    I think Bald Eagles are called (Bald Eagles) because they have a white head like it was bald. I wonder how long Bald Eagle talons are? I have never seen a Golden Eagle. What does a Golden Eagle look like?

  3. My guess was so close last time! I think tomorrow’s will be about a blizzard or just snow? I’ll have to come tomorrow to find out what it really is!! :-) :-P

    • We’ll be here to see if you are correct, too, Rebecca! Thanks so much for trying to guess what tomorrow’s Wonder will be! We think we might just need our jackets, boots and mittens! :-)

    • Hello, Me! There is an exciting NEW Wonder of the Day® to explore each day in Wonderopolis! We can’t tell you what tomorrow’s Wonder will be about…it’s a surprise! You can use the “Wonder what’s next?” clue to help you guess, though! Thanks for hanging out with us and learning some new things today! :-)

    • We’re glad you learned something new about Bald Eagles by exploring this Wonder, Cassidy! Thanks so much for visiting Wonderopolis today! :-)

  4. Interesting explanation, however “piebald” means “spotted or blotched” not “whiteheaded.” A horse that is white with black blotches would be described as “piebald.”

    The old English word that may apply in the case of the bald eagle is “balde” which means “white.”

    • Thanks for your comment, Bones, and for visiting Wonderopolis! We appreciate your explanation of the word “piebald!” :-)

  5. I don’t think bald eagles are really bald because you can see feathers on it’s head. I think tomorrow’s wonder will be why are each snowflake different or penguins.

  6. Hi, Wonderopolis! Thank you for this valuable information. I didn’t know that a bald eagle was not bald. I learned that a bald eagle is not bald and instead, had white feathers on his head. Does a bald eagle eat different food compared to other eagles?

    • Hi there, Brandon, we’re so excited that you are WONDERing with us today! We think bald eagles are very interesting birds, and you’re right– they are a reminder to many about states and countries! We Wonder if you have ever seen a bald eagle in flight?! :)

  7. THOUGHT: I thought the video was funny.

    CONNECTION: my connection is that my bother in law is bald.

    WWOTD: Inheritage occuring among members of a family

    PREDICITION: My predicition it it going to be about clothes

  8. We are glad that the bald eagle is free. The bald eagle is proud, strong, and free! We are glad there are more bald eagles now than long ago.

    • Hey Kathryn! Thanks for WONDERing with us today! We are so glad there are more bald eagles now too – they are a beautiful bird! Did you learn anything new about the bald eagle when you read the Wonder? Have you ever seen one in real life? We bet that would be EXCITING! :)

      • We have seen an eagle at the zoo and on TV before. Many students in my class think they have seen one in their back yard in North Georgia. We learned that bald eagles are not really bald, the word came from old English piebald.

        • Hey Kathryn, thanks for WONDERing with us today! We are glad you and your students have learned something new – and you’ve even spotted a bald eagle with your own eyes! That’s pretty WONDERful! :)

    • Hi Mrs. Worley’s Class! Thanks for visiting Wonderopolis today! The Bald Eagle name actually comes from an old English word — piebald — which meant “white headed” rather than hairless. So it means they have white feathers, and are not bald! Can you think of any other animals that have funny names like that? What a fun thing to WONDER about! Let us know if you come up with any ideas! :)

    • Hi Ms. Phillips’ Class! Thanks for WONDERing about bald eagles with us! 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! But they aren’t the only fast birds that we have WONDERed about! Check out #843 Which Bird Flies the Fastest too! :)

  9. This reminds us of a book we read called, “The Bald Eagle.” It also reminds us of an eagle that we have seen. We have two questions. How many bald eagles are on the earth? How does a person find a bald eagle? Thank you.

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Are Bald Eagles really bald?
  • Is the Bald Eagle an endangered species?
  • How fast can Bald Eagles fly?

Wonder Gallery

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Try It Out

Ready to see some Bald Eagles up close? Check out these other cool videos of Bald Eagles in action:

When you’re finished, grab your art supplies and try one of these fun Bald Eagle crafts:


Still Wondering

In National Geographic Xpeditions’ People and Endangered Species lesson, children examine some endangered species and the ways that human activities contribute to species endangerment.


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