Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Bald eagle
Image of Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Photo by Thomas Dunston 

Key Characteristics

The Bald eagle is a large bird of prey, with a wingspan ranging from 6-7.5 feet (1.8 - 2.3m). Mature adults are immediately recognizable by their white head and tail and dark brown body. Their hooked beak and feet are yellow. Juvenile plumages are variable, but head and tail are brown with increasing amounts of white until they attain their adult plumage between 4.5 and 5.5 years of age. Females are larger than males.

Status and Rank

  • State Status: SC
  • State Rank: S4
  • Global Rank: G5

Occurrences

County NameNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Alcona142012
Alger262012
Allegan42012
Alpena242012
Antrim72012
Arenac122012
Baraga252012
Barry3
Bay92012
Benzie112012
Calhoun12012
Cass12012
Charlevoix162012
Cheboygan242012
Chippewa572012
Clare112012
Clinton12012
Crawford152012
Delta422012
Dickinson182012
Emmet152012
Genesee12012
Gladwin132012
Gogebic482012
Grand Traverse132012
Gratiot22005
Hillsdale12012
Houghton232012
Huron122012
Ionia62012
Iosco202012
Iron502012
Isabella22012
Jackson22012
Kalamazoo22012
Kalkaska72012
Kent22012
Keweenaw232012
Lake102012
Lapeer22012
Leelanau152012
Lenawee22012
Livingston22012
Luce172012
Mackinac352012
Manistee162012
Marquette322012
Mason112012
Mecosta72012
Menominee312013
Midland82012
Missaukee72012
Monroe132012
Montcalm32012
Montmorency192012
Muskegon72012
Newaygo102012
Oakland22012
Oceana22012
Ogemaw142012
Ontonagon302012
Osceola52012
Oscoda152012
Otsego162012
Ottawa82012
Presque Isle202012
Roscommon202005
Saginaw112012
Schoolcraft252012
St. Clair42012
St. Joseph22012
Tuscola82012
Washtenaw12016
Wayne82012
Wexford52012
Distribution map for Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Updated 7/21/2017. Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.

Habitat

Bald eagles will nest in a wide variety of habitats that provide suitable nest sites close to open water. Nests may be placed in snags or large live trees as well as on constructed platforms or utility poles. They are resident (stay year round) as long as there is open water where they can forage.

Natural Community Types

Methodology

For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Management

Bald eagles are extremely sensitive to human activity during the first 12 weeks of the breeding season. Maintain a quarter mile buffer zone around the nest from mid-March through the end of June. Schedule maintenance and construction activities within the buffer zone to occur between August and February.

Active Period

Nesting from third week of March to second week of July

Survey Methods

Surveys may be conducted by checking suitable habitat for their large conspicuous stick nests or shoreline areas for foraging adults. Automobiles, planes, or boats allow the surveyor to efficiently cover a larger area than they would on foot and may provide easier access to otherwise inaccessible areas.

Page Citation

Michigan Natural Features Inventory. 2007. Rare Species Explorer (Web Application). Available online at http://mnfi.anr.msu.edu/explorer [Accessed Sep 20, 2017]

More Information

See MNFI Species Abstract

References

Survey References

Technical References

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