Are There Eagles In Florida? The American Bald Eagle
Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) or Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)
Eagle is the common name of many large birds of prey of the Accipitridae family, which can be spotted at Everglades Holiday Park. Most of the sixty species of eagles are from Eurasia and Africa, but two are present in the Everglades – the bald eagle and the golden eagle. Due to their immense size and power, eagles are ranked at the top of the food chain as apex predators in the avian world. Seeing these majestic animals during Everglades airboat tours is truly a treat.
Eagles in Florida
Due to the abundance of shallow water that gives the eagles easy access to fish and insects and the sheer size of the landscape, the Everglades is a natural habitat for various eagle species.
Eagle Species You Might Spot in Florida Everglades Park
There are four eagle species that can be spotted in the state of Florida. The four eagle species are bald eagles, golden eagles, white-tailed eagles, and steller’s sea eagles, with bald eagles and golden eagles being the most common of the four.
Bald eagles are the national bird of the United States and are the most common species of eagles in Florida. They are relatively large with the characteristic white head and dark brown feathers on the body. They have piercing eyes, a large yellow hooked bill, and powerful feet with bright yellow sharp talons. Unlike how their name implies, bald eagles are actually not bald. The name comes from the old English word “balde” which means white, in reference to its bright white head.
While northern populations of bald eagles are migratory, bald eagles in Florida are resident. This means that bald eagles can be spotted year-round in Florida.
Although bald eagles are the most common species of eagle in North America, the golden eagle is the most widely distributed, spanning across the entire northern hemisphere. Additionally, Golden eagles are the largest eagle in North America. Named for its golden brown feathers on its top half, the rest of the golden eagle’s body is primarily dark brown, with some hints of grey down by the feet. They have yellow talons, yellow to brown eyes, and a black bill with yellow highlights.
Golden eagles are typically sedentary birds, but some northern groups travel south for the winter season. They can regularly be found in areas with a lot of open ground for hunting, most often mountainous areas, so they are pretty uncommon in Florida.
However, if you were to spot a golden eagle in Florida, it would be most likely along the coast or in marshy areas like the Everglades National Park.
The white-tailed eagle is a massive creature with a long yellow bill, yellow talons, dark-colored plumage, and a relatively short white tail. While the golden eagle flies with slightly raised wings, the white-tailed eagle fills with its wings level to its body. The white-tailed eagle is uncommon, especially in Florida. They are most prevalent in northern European areas along sea coasts.
Steller’s Sea Eagle
The Steller’s sea eagle is the heaviest known eagle as well as one of the rarest in the world. The Steller’s sea eagle has a predominantly dark body with dark brown body plumage and white legs, white tops of wings, a yellow beak, and matching yellow eyes and talons. It is believed that this eagle species evolved in the narrow, northeastern Asian coast and has since stayed only there. Sometimes, they will migrate to other areas, such as the United States, flying impressive distances over oceans to get there.
BALD EAGLE HABITAT
The golden eagle is the most widely distributed species of eagle, and an Everglades tour is made all the better when our guests see them. However, the Everglades is also home to a number of bald eagles. They are best suited to hunting in open areas. The bald eagle can be found in virtually any kind of American wetland habitat, including seacoasts, rivers, large lakes, swamps, marshes, and other large open bodies of water. Both birds tend to avoid developed areas and are most commonly found in habitats with minimal human disturbance.
Overall, bald eagles prefer to live within at least two and a half miles of a large body of water, such as a coast, bay, or lake, meaning that they do not like to go very far from their main food source. They also prefer having surrounding forested habitats for nesting sites. In Florida, during nesting season from October 1 to May 15, they typically choose large, mature trees or large man-made structures, all relatively near their primary food source. Furthermore, Eagles mate for life and defend a selected territory against other eagles for their lives.
SIZE & APPEARANCE
Eagles are large, powerfully built birds of prey, with a heavy head and beak. Most eagles are larger than other raptors aside from some vultures, which you and your friends can see on a group airboat tour or can be spotted on a private airboat tour. They have very large, hooked beaks, strong muscular legs, and powerful talons. Thanks to their extremely large pupils, eagles minimize light diffraction, resulting in extremely powerful eyesight. This enables them to spot prey from very long distances. Females of all known eagle species are larger than males.
As you will notice on an Everglades excursion, eagles hunt from the sky, using their superior eyesight to spot their prey and their powerful beaks and talons to catch and eat. The golden eagle preys on many small and medium-sized animals, particularly rabbits and squirrels, but is also known to hunt larger animals such as foxes and goats; though a rare sight, it can be occasionally spotted while on Miami airboat tours. The bald eagle feeds primarily on fish that they swoop down and grab with their talons.
Conservation Status of Eagles in Florida
In the 1900s, throughout the United States, the eagle was in danger of extinction due to habitat destruction, hunting, and contamination of their watery food sources by the insecticide dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, known as DDT. Over time, bald eagles slowly recovered thanks to the Endangered Species Act, the federal government making DDT illegal, conservation acts by the American public, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
In 1940, when the bald eagle was threatened with extinction after seasons of being killed off by farmers in attempts to protect their smaller livestock, congress passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act, which stopped the killing, selling, and processing of the species. Meanwhile, DTT, an insecticide for agriculture, was running off farm operations into larger water sources, poisoning the eagle’s food sources. The eagles were consuming these contaminated fish, thus making their eggshells so thin that they either failed to hatch or broke during incubation. Once the government started to see the detrimental effects that pesticides were causing, in large part thanks to the popularity of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, they made DTT illegal, and bald eagle populations slowly recovered.
In 2007, thanks to their recovery, bald eagles were delisted from the Endangered Species Act. However, bald eagles are still protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act as well as the Golden Eagle Protection Act, which prohibits the killing, selling, and harming of their nests and eggs without prior authorization from the Department of Interior U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Migratory Bird Act of 1918 implements four international conservation treaties that the United States entered into with Canada, Mexico, Japan, and Russia to ensure the sustainable populations of all protected migratory bird species.
- The bald eagle is noted for having flown with the heaviest verified load carried by any flying bird when an eagle was seen flying with a 15 lb. mule deer fawn.
- The bald eagle is the national bird and symbol of the United States of America. Seeing one or a few during an Everglades boat tour is an almost spiritual experience for Americans.
- The golden eagle is the national bird of five countries – Austria, Germany, Albania, Mexico, and Kazakhstan, so guests aboard an airboat from these parts of the world will also feel a certain something special if they’re lucky enough to catch a glimpse.
Are there eagles in the Florida Everglades?
- Yes, there are eagles in the Florida Everglades. The most common type of eagle in the Florida Everglades is the bald eagle.
What types of eagles can be commonly found in the Everglades?
- The two most common species of eagles that can be found in the Florida Everglades are the bald eagle and the golden eagle.
How can you distinguish between adult and juvenile bald eagles?
- Adult bald eagles have easily distinguishable white heads and tails. Juvenile eagles, on the other hand, have mostly dark heads and tails with white mottling in varying amounts. It takes the young birds about 5 years to build entirely white heads and tails.
What is the average life expectancy of a golden eagle?
- The average life expectancy of a golden eagle is around 30 years.
Where do eagles typically build their nests in the Everglades?
- In the Everglades, eagles typically build their nests in the tallest pine, cypress tree, or man-made structure nearest their food source, typically water or pastureland.
How do bald eagles and golden eagles differ in their diet?
- Bald eagles prefer eating fish, while golden eagles prefer eating small mammals.
Can I spot white-tailed eagles during an Everglades airboat tour?
- White-tailed eagles are uncommon in Florida, and it would be unlikely to spot a white-tailed eagle on an Everglades airboat tour; it is more likely that you will spot a bald eagle or a golden eagle.
Are there any specific months that are better for eagle-watching in the Everglades?
- The best season for eagle watching in the Florida Everglades is the dry season, between November and March. During this time, the water and fish are collected in specific pools that the eagles use to feed, making them easier to spot.