Plants and Animals
Haliaeetus leucocephalus Bald eagle
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
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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.
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
- Dry northern forest
- Dry-mesic northern forest
- Floodplain forest
- Hardwood-conifer swamp
- Mesic northern forest
- Northern hardwood swamp
- Poor conifer swamp
- Rich tamarack swamp
- Southern hardwood swamp
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.
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.
Nesting from third week of March to second week of July
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
- Bibby, C.J., N.D. Burgess, and D.A. Hill. 1992. Bird Census Techniques. Academic Press, New York.
- 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.