Bald Eagle

From Ohio History Central
Bald Eagle.jpg
He clasps the crag with crooked hands; Close to the sun in lonely lands, Ring'd with the azure world, he stands. The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls; He watches from his mountain walls, And like a thunderbolt he falls.

The Eagle, Alfred Tennyson


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Scientific Name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Habitat: Lake Erie, major river systems and inland marshes with large, remote trees for nesting.
Adult Weight: average 10 lbs. male; 12 lbs. female
Adult Body Length: average 32 inches
Nesting Period: late February to July
Broods Per Year: 1
Clutch Size: 2, rarely 3
Life Expectancy: 15 - 20 years
Foods: Fish, waterfowl, small mammals and carrion


The Bald Eagle has made an amazing recovery in Ohio, from a low of only four nesting pairs in 1979 to 122 nests in 2005. It appears that this expansion will continue into the near future.



The eagle was chosen in 1782 as the emblem of the United States. It was chosen because of its longevity, strength and looks. The choice met some opposition. Ben Franklin felt the eagle was a predator and would be too aggressive a symbol. He thought the wild turkey would be a better choice.

Bald eagles were common when settlers first arrived in the Ohio country. However, as the forests were removed to make way for farms, the eagles lost the large trees they needed to nest in, and populations began decline throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

19th Century

Bald eagles were first officially recorded in Ohio in 1811.

20th Century

The first studies regarding bald eagles in Ohio took place in the 1920s.

In the mid-century, eagle populations were low, but steady. With the increase in the use of pesticides in the state, especially DDT, during the 1950s and 60s, eagle eggs were affected. The eggs did not hatch because they were either infertile or their shells were so thin, that the weight of the adult would crush them. As adult eagles died, there were no young to replace them.

Bald eagles were officially declared an endangered species in 1967 throughout the United States.

In 1979, there were only 4 breeding pairs of bald eagle in Ohio. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources began an extensive protection program of monitoring nests, protecting adult eagles, and transplanting young eagles into nests. By 1988, numbers had increased to twelve pairs.

Forty-seven pairs were recorded in 1998, which produced 44 fledglings. 1998 mid-winter survey results included 149 eagles spotted, including 95 adults and 54 immature birds.

In 1995, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service downgraded the Bald Eagle in the Great Lakes region from its Endangered status to list it as Threatened. It remains listed as State Endangered in Ohio, and continues to have the protections offered to it under the Federal Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940, which protects it as our National Symbol.

21st Century

The successes for Bald Eagles continues dramatically. In 2005 (the most recently available data at this writing), the Ohio Division of Wildlife reported 122 nests in 39 Ohio counties. That is more than 30 times the number of nests known in 1979, and an increase of about 260 percent of the number of nests known in 1998. Additional observations of nests in new areas should be reported to the ODNR, Division of Wildlife. 

See Also


  1. Peterjohn, John. The Birds of Ohio; Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN; 1989.