Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) are a species of large birds of prey which are native to North America. They can be found from Alaska to northern Mexico, and prefer to live in old-growth woods near large bodies of water with abundant fish. Bald eagles eat mostly fish, but will take other small prey if an opportunity arises.
Bald Eagles are the second-largest North American raptor; only the Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) is larger. Bald Eagles range in size from 28-40 inches (70-102 cm) in body length, 5.5-15 pounds (2.5-7 kg) in weight, and have a wingspan from 71-92 inches (180-235 cm). Bald Eagles are sexually dimorphic, meaning the males and the females differ in body type: Female Bald Eagles are 25% larger than males.
Bald Eagles also vary in size across their extensive range, and tend to grow larger the farther north they live. Bald Eagles in Alaska are the largest, and those in Florida, the smallest.
The Bald Eagle was adopted as the National Bird and and National Symbol of the United States of America in 1782. Bald Eagle populations declined far enough during the following 180 years that they were declared an endangered species in 1967. Since then, their protected status and harsh penalties for killing Bald Eagles (a federal offense in the USA) have allowed the population to rebound, and though still protected by United States law, they are no longer considered a threatened species.
The name Bald Eagle is often thought to have been given because the white feathers on its head made it appear "bald" of the darker feathers that cover its body. This is incorrect, however--the name "Bald" is an abbreviation of the term "Piebald" meaning mixed or blotched black-and-white coloration. The early european settlers of North America referred to the eagle as "piebald" because of its dak body and white head and tailfeathers.
Mourt's Relation, one of the few existing first-hand accounts of the settlement of Plymouth, MA by English colonists, relates that on Thursday, January 4, 1621, while exploring Cape Cod, Captain Myles Standish shot and killed a Bald Eagle, which is reported to have tasted like mutton.