Plants and Animals

Haliaeetus leucocephalus Bald eagle

species photo
Thomas Dunston
species photo
species photo

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 22 2021
Alger 29 2019
Allegan 9 2019
Alpena 31 2019
Antrim 13 2021
Arenac 22 2021
Baraga 32 2019
Barry 5 2019
Bay 16 2021
Benzie 16 2019
Berrien 3 2020
Branch 2 2019
Calhoun 3 2019
Cass 3 2019
Charlevoix 26 2021
Cheboygan 34 2021
Chippewa 76 2019
Clare 14 2021
Clinton 5 2019
Crawford 18 2021
Delta 50 2019
Dickinson 26 2019
Eaton 2 2019
Emmet 21 2021
Genesee 6 2020
Gladwin 16 2021
Gogebic 61 2019
Grand Traverse 18 2021
Gratiot 8 2019
Hillsdale 1 2012
Houghton 36 2019
Huron 22 2019
Ingham 3 2019
Ionia 11 2019
Iosco 24 2021
Iron 55 2019
Isabella 6 2020
Jackson 3 2019
Kalamazoo 6 2019
Kalkaska 11 2021
Kent 5 2019
Keweenaw 34 2019
Lake 10 2019
Lapeer 6 2019
Leelanau 24 2019
Lenawee 2 2019
Livingston 2 2019
Luce 20 2019
Mackinac 47 2019
Macomb 2 2019
Manistee 23 2021
Marquette 33 2019
Mason 20 2019
Mecosta 11 2020
Menominee 40 2019
Midland 11 2021
Missaukee 17 2021
Monroe 27 2019
Montcalm 5 2019
Montmorency 24 2019
Muskegon 13 2021
Newaygo 15 2020
Oakland 5 2019
Oceana 3 2019
Ogemaw 23 2021
Ontonagon 39 2019
Osceola 10 2021
Oscoda 19 2021
Otsego 19 2021
Ottawa 14 2021
Presque Isle 28 2019
Roscommon 25 2021
Saginaw 31 2021
Sanilac 6 2019
Schoolcraft 28 2019
Shiawassee 5 2021
St. Clair 7 2019
St. Joseph 4 2019
Tuscola 10 2021
Washtenaw 5 2021
Wayne 16 2021
Wexford 10 2021

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 surveys 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.