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What Happens When a Bald Eagle Loses a Feather?

A bald eagle can achieve a flight speed of up to 100 miles per hour (161 km/hr) when diving for prey, maneuvering a pair of wings that can span as much as eight feet (2.4 m). These majestic birds, adopted as the national symbol of the United States in 1782, depend on aerodynamic balance -- so much so that if a bald eagle loses a feather on one wing, it will also shed the corresponding feather on the other wing.

In the wild, bald eagles usually live between 30 and 35 years, feeding primarily on fish, small mammals, waterfowl, and carrion.

The bald eagle, high and mighty:

  • Eagles have excellent eyesight. They can see up to seven times farther than humans, which allows them to hunt successfully from great heights.

  • Bald eagles are masterful nest builders. The largest known nest was found in Florida: It was 9 feet (2.7 m) across, 20 feet (6.1 m) deep and weighed more than 2 tons.

  • Bald eagles mate for life and share parental duties. A female usually lays two or three eggs at a time, but both parents guard against predators, which can include squirrels, gulls, and ravens.

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