Plants and Animals

Haliaeetus leucocephalus Bald eagle

species photo
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

US Status: No Status/Not Listed
State Status: SC - Special Concern (rare or uncertain; not legally protected)
Global Rank: G5 - Secure
State Rank: S4 - Apparently secure

Occurrences

CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Alcona 21 2017
Alger 28 2017
Allegan 7 2017
Alpena 31 2017
Antrim 9 2017
Arenac 18 2019
Baraga 32 2017
Barry 2 2017
Bay 13 2017
Benzie 15 2017
Branch 2 2017
Calhoun 3 2017
Cass 2 2017
Charlevoix 23 2017
Cheboygan 31 2017
Chippewa 72 2017
Clare 14 2017
Clinton 3 2017
Crawford 18 2017
Delta 49 2017
Dickinson 25 2017
Eaton 2 2017
Emmet 18 2017
Genesee 5 2017
Gladwin 16 2017
Gogebic 60 2017
Grand Traverse 13 2017
Gratiot 7 2017
Hillsdale 1 2012
Houghton 31 2017
Huron 19 2017
Ingham 3 2017
Ionia 8 2017
Iosco 21 2017
Iron 55 2017
Isabella 4 2017
Jackson 3 2017
Kalamazoo 6 2017
Kalkaska 10 2017
Kent 4 2017
Keweenaw 35 2017
Lake 10 2017
Lapeer 4 2017
Leelanau 22 2017
Lenawee 2 2017
Livingston 2 2017
Luce 20 2017
Mackinac 44 2018
Macomb 2 2017
Manistee 21 2017
Marquette 33 2017
Mason 18 2017
Mecosta 10 2017
Menominee 40 2017
Midland 10 2017
Missaukee 14 2017
Monroe 18 2017
Montcalm 4 2017
Montmorency 23 2017
Muskegon 10 2017
Newaygo 11 2017
Oakland 3 2017
Oceana 3 2017
Ogemaw 17 2017
Ontonagon 40 2017
Osceola 9 2017
Oscoda 18 2017
Otsego 17 2017
Ottawa 9 2017
Presque Isle 26 2017
Roscommon 22 2017
Saginaw 22 2017
Sanilac 4 2017
Schoolcraft 26 2017
Shiawassee 4 2017
St. Clair 6 2017
St. Joseph 2 2017
Tuscola 10 2017
Washtenaw 4 2017
Wayne 12 2017
Wexford 7 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

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 Recommendations

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.

Visual in suitable habitat

Survey Period: From first week of May to fourth week of July

Time of Day: Daytime

References

Survey References

  • Bibby, C.J., N.D. Burgess, and D.A. Hill. 1992. Bird Census Techniques. Academic Press, New York.

Technical References

  • Brewer, R., G. A. McPeek, and R. J. Adams Jr., eds. 1991. The Atlas of Breeding Birds of Michigan. Michigan State University Press, East Lansing. 650pp.
  • Evers, D.C. 1994. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife of Michigan. The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor. 412pp.