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:
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
Alcona212017
Alger282017
Allegan72017
Alpena312017
Antrim92017
Arenac182019
Baraga322017
Barry22017
Bay132017
Benzie152017
Branch22017
Calhoun32017
Cass22017
Charlevoix232017
Cheboygan312017
Chippewa722017
Clare142017
Clinton32017
Crawford182017
Delta492017
Dickinson252017
Eaton22017
Emmet182017
Genesee52017
Gladwin162017
Gogebic602017
Grand Traverse132017
Gratiot72017
Hillsdale12012
Houghton312017
Huron192017
Ingham32017
Ionia82017
Iosco212017
Iron552017
Isabella42017
Jackson32017
Kalamazoo62017
Kalkaska102017
Kent42017
Keweenaw352017
Lake102017
Lapeer42017
Leelanau222017
Lenawee22017
Livingston22017
Luce202017
Mackinac442018
Macomb22017
Manistee212017
Marquette332017
Mason182017
Mecosta102017
Menominee402017
Midland102017
Missaukee142017
Monroe182017
Montcalm42017
Montmorency232017
Muskegon102017
Newaygo112017
Oakland32017
Oceana32017
Ogemaw172017
Ontonagon402017
Osceola92017
Oscoda182017
Otsego172017
Ottawa92017
Presque Isle262017
Roscommon222017
Saginaw222017
Sanilac42017
Schoolcraft262017
Shiawassee42017
St. Clair62017
St. Joseph22017
Tuscola102017
Washtenaw42017
Wayne122017
Wexford72017

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.

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.