Welcome back to #WildlifeWednesday. This post will be a lot shorter than last week’s as I’ll be breaking it into at least two parts. I hope you’ll enjoy seeing the basic differences between bald eagles and ospreys, both very common birds in Florida, and then learning a little more about eagles this week. Next time around, I’ll wrap up with some facts about ospreys, including some very interesting adaptations they have.
But first, how do you tell these two large birds of prey apart?
When seen up close, there’s no real problem. Mature bald eagles are solid brown birds with snow white heads and tails. They have a huge yellow beak, too. Ospreys have smaller black beaks and a dark brown eye-stripe that breaks up the white feathering on the head.
Like bald eagles, ospreys have dark brown backs but they are white beneath. They also have dark bands on their tails, and several interesting patterns on their wings, which you’ll see in the next #WildlifeWednesday post.
But for now, we are going to concentrate on the bald eagle.
The first thing to note is that the term bald was originally spelled balde, the Old English term for “white.” NOW it makes sense, doesn’t it? 😀
Note also that this bird is quite large at close to ten pounds, and can lift
nearly half of its own body weight.
Of interest: though bald eagles can be spotted throughout most of North America, the highest concentrations of nesting birds are found in Alaska and Florida, and Florida is one of the few states where they are permanent residents, though our subspecies is slightly smaller than western birds.
Imagine gliding nearly 2 miles high and still being able to spot
prey the size of a rabbit!
Bald eagles fight both to defend their territory, and to win their mate. Their aerial battles are astonishingly vigorous, sometimes involving crash landings!
Show off! 😀
How cute are they?
As you can see, subadult bald eagles are mostly brown with some scattered white here and there. It takes about five years for their adult plumage to come in and their yellow beak to develop.
Because they return to the same nest every year, adding a new layer inside each time, their nests become huge over time.
The largest tree nests in the world!
TWENTY feet deep!
Yes, that gentleman is lying in an empty eagle’s nest, and not even a very big one, considering. Even the one on the right measured less that ten feet deep, so imagine what a twenty-foot nest would look like!
Note the eagle on the right is an immature (subadult) bird.
Eagles will steal fish every chance they get. Here, one is harassing an osprey to make it drop the fish, which it will then catch in midair.
Notice how much smaller the osprey is than the eagle.
The image on the left displays the markings beneath an osprey’s wings, including the very dark “wrist” marks, right where the wing bends. Those marks and the banded tail make it easy to tell the difference between these birds, even when you can’t see the obvious size disparity.
I just had to share this amazing photo of a bald eagle’s feet and talons. Just look at the size! My advice? Do not provoke an eagle into attacking you. 😀
Don’t worry. They aren’t interested in doing so anyway.
But if you ever have to rescue an injured one,
you definitely want to avoid those talons! 😯
The symbol of our nation since 1782!
And with this beautiful photo of an eagle soaring high above the ground, I’ll end this introduction to the American bald eagle. Hope you enjoyed it! Tune in on November 11 for Part 2, where I’ll be sharing some very interesting information about ospreys I think may surprise you. See you then!