Is The Essential Wilderness Survival Skills Online Course Right for You? Take the Free Quiz!

Bald Eagle Habitat

By Filip Tkaczyk

Learn more about what makes good bald eagle habitat and how to recognize their presence. This magnificent species was until recently an endangered species.  It is a powerful predator and scavenger, feeding on fish, birds, some mammals and carrion. These huge birds grow to between 30 and 36 inches in length, with a wingspan of 6.5 to 7 feet! Adults have dark bodies and wings, with distinctly white heads and tails. Juvenile birds are uniformly dark or mottled with some pale areas overall.

What makes good bald eagle habitat?

This eagle species is nearly always tied to productive waterways, such as rivers, lakes, reservoirs and saltwater bays. Rivers that have runs of fish such as shad or salmon may have the densest populations of bald eagles.  Generally speaking, healthier, cleaner waterways have more bald eagles.

These birds require tall, thick trees to use as nesting sites. Their nests can be huge, often 4-5 feet across and 3-5 feet tall.  The largest bald eagle nest ever recorded was over 9 feet wide and nearly 20 feet tall.  That nest weighed in at over two tons!

Bald Eagle Tracks and Sign

The tracks of bald eagles are very large, muscular and show marks from their long talons. Like typical (anisodactyl) bird tracks, eagles tracks show 3 toes forward and 1 toe facing backward. Similar to the tracks of much smaller ravens and crows, eagle tracks show the forward inner and middle toes closer together and one forward toe to the outside.

Eagle tracks measure 6 to 7.5 inches long!

FREE Mini Survival Guide: "Thriving in the Outdoors"

In this 9-page guide, you'll discover keys to starting a fire, building a shelter, purifying water, finding food... and many more life-saving skills.

Get your FREE copy now by signing up to our list. Discover more.


Typically, when on the ground, eagles walk and sometimes hop. They are heavy and not very fast on the ground. Their trails are most commonly encountered in the sand or silt along major rivers.

Salmon carcasses fed on by bald eagles often have the fish's spine and head intact (whereas ospreys feeding on salmon often leave no remains).

Primary feathers from a bald eagle are dark-colored (with white splotches on juveniles) and are 14 to 20 inches in length. They lack the "melted plastic"-looking patch (tegmen) on the inner side that geese feathers have. Keep in mind that it is against the law to possess eagle feathers, or any other migratory bird feathers or parts, without a permit.



Additional Resources:

National Wildlife Federation information on Bald Eagles

Cornell Lab Bald Eagle Page

US Fish & Wildlife Bald Eagle Fact Sheet



Related Courses:

Wildlife Tracking Courses at Alderleaf



About the Author: Filip Tkaczyk is a periodic guest teacher at Alderleaf. He also wrote the field guide Tracks & Sign of Reptiles & Amphibians. Learn more about Filip Tkaczyk.



Return from Bald Eagle Habitat back to Wildlife Tracking Articles


Is The Essential Wilderness Survival Skills Course Right for You? Take the "Online Survival Training Readiness" Quiz

See for yourself if this eye-opening course is a good fit for you. It takes just a few minutes! Get your Survival Training Readiness Score Now!



Knowledge is Power - Grow Your Wilderness Skills! Get monthly updates on new wilderness skills articles, upcoming courses, and special opportunities. Join the free Alderleaf eNewsletter and as a bonus you'll get our mini survival guide:



wilderness survival guideThe Six Keys to Survival:
Get a free copy of our survival mini-guide and monthly tips!
Learn more