All You Need to Know About Eagles in Delaware
If the low cost of living, peaceful scenarios & environment don’t appeal to you, the state of Delaware is also known for the occasional eagle sightings here and there. While it was a rare sight a couple of decades ago, the number of eagles in Delaware has risen over the years.
Now you can encounter bald eagles and golden eagles in Delaware quite regularly. Especially during the winter season, when eagles move from Alaska & Canada to the southern parts of the United States.
Let’s learn what eagles you may find in Delaware, their behavior & characteristics, and some interesting facts about them.
Different Species of Eagle Found in Delaware
While there are more than 60 species of eagles out there in the wild. In Delaware, you will generally encounter only two species of eagles:
- Bald Eagle
- Golden Eagle
You might encounter other species of eagle, but that is an extremely rare situation and happens once in a million times. The environment plays the main role in determining what type of eagles will migrate to Delaware during the winter.
Compared to the number of golden eagles, the number of bald eagles is higher in this city. Normally, bald eagles aren’t permanent residents of Delaware; they mostly migrate there during the winter.
On the other hand, there are many bald eagles that start their life in Delaware. But the majority of bald eagles also migrate to Delaware for a better living environment for the winter season.
|Name||Bald Eagle||Golden Eagle|
|Feather Color||Medium to deep brown feathers covering the entire body except for the head. The head is covered with white feathers.||Dark brown feathers cover the entire body.|
|Primary Food||Fishes||Small to mid-sized mammals|
|Mating Season||Early winter to late spring||Early spring to late summer|
|Number of Nests||1||1|
|Unique Feature||White feathers cover the head and the neck||Feathers cover the entire leg, covering the area above the toes as well|
|Migration Time in Delaware||Mid to late December to the end of March||Beginning of October to the end of November|
1. Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
- Length: 27.9 to 40 inches
- Weight: 105 to 223 oz
- Wingspan: 70 to 90 inches
- Commonly Found In: Upper Delaware, rivers and creeks east of Delaware
Most bald eagles that you might encounter in Delaware come from Canada, Alaska, and the Northern areas of America. Around 100 or more bald eagles come to Delaware each winter. Some stay while most returns back to their homes when the winter is over.
The rivers in upper Delaware and the areas surrounding those water bodies are where they build their nests and hunt for the entirety of the winter. Many paired eagles move into the eastern side of the city as well.
Behavior & Characteristics
Here are the behavioral patterns and characteristics of bald eagles that differentiate them from other species:
Body & Feathers
Bald eagles have white feathers covering their face and neck. The rest of the body is filled with dark brown feathers. Male bald eagles are shorter compared to females. Their size difference is almost around 20 to 25%. Similar to other species of eagles, their feathers don’t cover their toes.
The most common places where bald eagles make their nests are in trees near open water bodies so that they can be closer to their primary food option: fish. For this convenience, sometimes they might build their nests not on trees but in other elevated places. This is why they reside in upper Delaware most of the time.
Bald eagles construct large nests that are 4 to 6 feet wide and can host two eagles easily. The size depends on the eagle and whether or not it has a mate or not. It is mostly made out of sticks and leaves. They add a new layer to their nests every year.
These nests take quite a long period to be properly built. That being said, bald eagles don’t tend to abandon or leave their nests that much, and so a built nest gets used for a good number of years.
The call sounds of bald eagles are more like a mix of squeaks & whistles. Many find their calls resemble the sound of a seagull but on a higher pitch.
Generally, they call out in their mating seasons and when they are facing any invaders or threats.
The mating season for bald eagles starts in early winter, around the first week of October to late spring, around the end of May. A bald eagle becomes capable of mating around 4 years of age. They are paired for life, so unless the partner dies, a bald eagle won’t change its mate.
While these birds are quite social, during their mating season, they isolate themselves from others and only stay with their partners.
Bald eagles hunt for food from a very high altitude. They have superior eyesight which allows them to notice their prey from a large distance. Once the target (fish) is acquired, they strike swiftly and grab their prey with their talons. In shallow water, then they may opt to use their beaks instead.
If not provoked, bald eagles generally won’t attack people or animals other than fish. They are very social in the animal kingdom. But there have been cases when they have attacked humans and animals. Most of the time, it was either due to hunger or provocation.
Facts About Bald Eagles
Knowing about bald eagles may interest you if you are an Accipitridae lover. Here are some facts about bald eagles that you may not know:
Bald Doesn’t Actually Mean Bald
The word ‘bald’ comes from the old English word ‘Piebald,’ which means ‘White Patch’ referring to the white feathers covering a bald eagle’s head. So, it is not a naming mistake; the ‘pie’ was removed from ‘piebald,’ that’s all.
Young Bald Eagles Look Similar to Golden Eagles
The white feathers of bald eagles don’t develop until they are 5 to 5 years old. During that time, a bald eagle’s head is covered with dark brown feathers, much like the head of a golden eagle. So, it can be a bit confusing figuring out which eagle is a bald eagle and which is a golden eagle.
They Were Enlisted as Endangered Species Not So Long Ago
Bald eagles were put on the endangered species list under the Endangered Species Act in 1978. Their numbers were steadily declining. In all across America, it was listed that there were only 417 nesting pairs remaining in 1963.
This was due to the destruction of their habitats and the rise in the illegal hunting of bald eagles. The danger of extinction passed over after an intensive care program from the government. And in 2006, they were removed from the list of endangered species.
Now there are around 316,700 bald eagles roaming in the US. Around 77 active nesting pairs are currently residing in Delaware, and more joins during the winter season.
2. Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)
- Length: 26 to 40 inches
- Weight: 105 to 216 oz
- Wingspan: 71 to 96 inches
- Commonly Found In: Forests in Upper Delaware, Areas around the Lackawaxen River
Compared to bald eagles, the number of golden eagles residing or migrating for the winter in Delaware is quite low. But this doesn’t mean you might not come across one.
They mostly reside in the forests of upper Delaware due to the convenience of getting food. These born hunters like to swoop down upon squirrels and rabbits in the area. So, if you know where to look, then you will see a few golden eagles in Delaware without many difficulties.
Behavior & Characteristics
The following characteristics and behavioral patterns are witnessed among golden eagles:
Body & Feathers
Golden eagles are built for the hunt. They have a low weighing body due to the feathers being light and are known for taking down large prey easily due to the strong durability of their bones.
The name golden eagle was incorporated with them due to having a golden-brown feather around the neck and crown. However, the rest of the body has a deeper brown feather with a hint of white highlight. Their eyes are either yellow or dark brown.
For young golden eagles, their feather color tends to be darker. The females are also larger compared to the males in this eagle species as well.
These birds of prey love high places and look to build their nest where they can have a complete overview of their surroundings. For this reason, most of their nests are built on tree tops or nesting platforms, or observation towers.
They build their nests even on the ground if they are close to a hunting area and they have a good view of their surrounding atmosphere. Most of the time, partners make their nests together. But there have been exceptions. Their nests are 5 to 8 feet wide and get a new layer each passing year.
Their calls are similar to a high-pitched intensive whistle. But it is still quite intense compared to the calls of a bald eagle. Their calls can be heard from a long distance.
During their breeding season, you will hear the golden eagle’s calls the most. The call can also be heard when the chicks are born and ask for food from their parents. Sometimes they call out to their partners, directing them in the direction of food.
Golden eagles choose their partners for life. Once they have selected their mate, they are inseparable. To attract a partner of their liking, a male golden will try to impress the female.
The male eagle will either pick up a rock or stick and then fly up very high carrying it. Once the bird has reached a high altitude, it will drop the stone or stick and then dive forward to catch the stone or stick before it touches the ground.
If the female eagle is impressed with this show of speed and tenacity, then they will mate. Otherwise, the male eagle will move on to find another partner.
Golden eagles start mating when they are 3 or 4 years old. Their mating season starts at the beginning of spring in March and ends around late summer in August.
Golden eagles aren’t afraid of attacking prey larger than their size. They prefer small to mid-sized mammals like squirrels, rabbits, and marmots. Unless they have no other option, they don’t opt for fish. Sometimes they also go for mountain goats, deer, badgers, seals, and bear cubs.
These birds hunt with their partners. One partner will drive the prey in the direction of the other partner. And the other partner will go in for the kill. Sometimes they both might attack simultaneously if the prey is larger in size or putting up too much resistance.
For hunting, they use their talons for their attacks. The beak is for eating only. But in extreme situations, they won’t prevent themselves from using their beaks.
They have a fearless nature, and for that reason, they won’t back down once they are provoked. There have been numerous cases where golden eagles have attacked bears, lions & tigers.
But generally, they are quite peace-loving, so they won’t suddenly start to attack you out of nowhere.
Interesting Facts about Golden Eagles
There are quite a few interesting facts regarding golden eagles. Take a look at some of them, and you might be surprised:
Different Feather Structure than Others
Golden eagles are the only species of eagles that have their feathers covering all the way up to their toes. There isn’t any open space between them. This distinguishing feature of golden eagles allows us to identify them as young bald eagles.
Otherwise, it is quite impossible to spot the difference between a young bald eagle and a golden eagle because both species look identical due to bald eagles not developing their iconic white feathers until being 5 years old.
Male Eagles Also Incubate the Eggs
The male eagle also partakes when it comes to incubating the eggs. In comparison, the female eagle does the incubation for the longest. The male eagle participates when the female gets tired and needs rest or wants to go out hunting.
When the male eagle is incubating the eggs, the female might sometime feed the male eagle food.
Takes Precautions to Avoid Bugs in the Nest
Almost all golden eagle nests are filled with different herbs and aromatics. They bring these to their nests in order to create a protective aroma that will keep bugs and insects away from their home.
This way, their nest is safe from bugs and insects, and they don’t have to add too many layers every passing year.
Locating eagles in Delaware was quite a difficult task in the past due to their declining numbers and the rise in illegal hunting. But this issue has been solved, and now you can meet bald eagles and golden eagles not just during the winter migration season but also at other times of the year. So, make sure to keep an eye out for eagles if you are in Delaware!