Despite the bird's stunning appearance, the Bald Eagle is relatively clumsy compared to other eagles. They usually feed on dead or injured fish, or fish that are in shallow water, before exerting effort to catch fish that are alive and well. They will often scavenge or steal food from other birds.
At the EcoTarium
Joining Bob the new Bald Eagle at the EcoTaium is a year-old female who has been named Dianne after a public vote. This name is in honor of Dianne Davis, who recently retired as a keeper at the EcoTarium. Davis was instrumental in the state program which reintroduced Bald Eagles to Massachusetts. She spent the summer of 1985 living alone on the shores of the Quabbin Reservoir caring for eight eaglets, feeding them fish that she pulled from the water. Davis published "Eagle One, A Personal Journey" about her experience and career devoted to wildlife and education. Both Bob and Dianne come from the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey, where they lived together for a time in Florida.
Estimated at around seven years old, Bob arrived at the Audubon Center in October, 2016, where he received treatment for a dislocated right elbow. After extensive rehabilitation, including time in a 100-foot flight cage, it became clear that he would never regain the flight needed to thrive in the wild. Dianne was also placed with the EcoTarium due to a permanent wing injury that prevents her from flying well enough to live in the wild.
It will be easy for a few years to tell the eagles apart. Like all young Bald Eagles, Dianne has a brown head. She is a second year bald eagle so she will remain brown/speckled in color for at least another three years. Her head will become fully white when she is mature, at five years of age.
Bob and Dianne are typical of the animals living on EcoTarium grounds that no longer live in the wild due to injuries, illness and human socialization. All animals are housed in enclosures that have been specially designed to meet the natural needs of the species as well as to accommodate any physical limitations of the individual animal. All animal residents receive regular check-ups from their vets and daily interaction with their caretakers.
Earlier this year, the EcoTarium humanely euthanized Justice, the museum’s longest-residing bald eagle, due to quality of life decisions made by staff and Tufts Wildlife Clinic. He was believed to be one of the oldest bald eagles under human care. The average age of bald eagles in the natural habitat is mid-twenties to early thirties, Justice was in his mid-forties.
About Bald Eagles
The Bald Eagle has been the national symbol of the United States since 1782. Eagles are members of the Hawk family, but most closely related to the Sea Eagle. In the wild, Bald Eagles live along coasts or streams as far north as Alaska and as far south as Florida. During migration, northern eagles tend to travel south, while southern eagles travel north.
Even though the Bald Eagle is known by the white feathers on its head, these do not appear until they are about four or five years old. Bald Eagles form mating pairs for life and nest in trees or cliffs. They lay 1 to 3 eggs. Young eagles learn how to fly and hunt by watching adults. Bald Eagles hunt using their acute vision, which is four times as sharp as ours, and their talons and beak, which are made of keratin and grow continuously like our hair and fingernails do.
Eagles were added to the Endangered Species List in 1967 as populations across America shrank. In 1972 the use of DDT, a pesticide that caused eagle eggshells to be thin and brittle, was banned. By 1995, populations were large enough to upgrade their status to Threatened and they have been completely removed from the Threatened list altogether as of 2007.