The bald eagle is one of the largest raptors in North America. They are one of two species of eagles found on the continent but they are the only eagle that is unique to North America. This is one reason that it is fitting that the bald eagle is the symbol of the United States. The bald portion of the name bald eagle comes from the old English word balde which meant white. When the word balde fell out of use it was shortened to bald eagle.
The bald eagle is a type of sea or fish eagle. The feathers on the legs of sea eagles stops at the top of their legs and the lower portion of the legs and feet are covered with scales. Sea eagles are designed to pluck fish from the water, which is why bald eagles are typically found around water. Although fish are a main part of the bald eagles diet, they are opportunistic feeders and will eat whatever prey is easiest to obtain. This often leads to a lot of scavenging.
Immature bald eagles do not look very much like their parents. They start out life with dark feathers on their heads and tails, black beaks and brown eyes. When they get to about five years old they begin to change. As they molt over the next 2 or 3 years some of the dark feathers that are lost from the head and tail will be replaced with white feathers. The beak will begin to change from black to gray to pale yellow. Finally after a few years it will end up the bright yellow. The eyes also gradually change from brown to bright yellow. The three birds in this post represent the three different stages. The bottom photo is an immature bird probably around 3 or 4 years old. It has not yet begun to change. The middle picture is a bird in transition between immature and adult. It is probably about 5 to 7 years old. The top photo is a mature bird that could be anywhere from around 8 or older. In the wild a bald eagle does well if it makes it to 25 years old.