Wildlife - Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle - Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Being both the national bird and national emblem of the USA, the bald eagle is a conspicuous and well recognized bird of prey. Adult bald eagles have white heads and tails, contrasting dark brown bodies, bright yellow beaks, large talons, and sharp eyes. Young, or juvenile, bald eagles are mottled dark brown and white and will not get their white heads or tails until they are four years old.


A soaring eagle’s wingspan can be 2m wide and their superior vision allows them to see 4-7 times farther than humans. They prefer to nest along the coast in tall trees that give them a vantage point from which to look for prey. Bald eagles are opportunistic hunters so their diets vary considerably depending on what is in season and their location. The majority of their diet consists of fish, but they will also scavenge for leftovers or attack small land mammals if fish are scarce.


Bald eagles are known for being a very romantic bird; they choose one mate for life. The courtship takes place mid-air as a spectacular dance in the sky. This involves locking talons and cart-wheeling through the air. The eagle pair will return to the same nest each year to have their clutch of one to three eggs, typically two. Bald eagles create some of the largest nests of any bird which can get up to 8 feet across and weigh almost two tons!


Bald eagles have no natural predators and the main threats to their population are caused by humans. Deforestation and shoreline development limit the number of trees available to nest and fish from, and pesticides accumulated through the food chain put their chick’s development at risk.


Fortunately, here in Nanaimo and the surrounding Gulf Islands, the bald eagle population is healthy and we are able to see them on most tours. Keep your eyes peeled for the bright white heads in the tree tops or on our rocky islands!