I have traveled far and wide in search of unique birds. When I was in college here in the US, I took a passion for birds, especially for the birds of prey that can never truly be tamed.
I went to many states and documented my observations in each region. When I was visiting Maryland in North America, I saw 2 types of eagles – the Golden Eagle and the Bald Eagle.
I admired these eagles in Maryland as they spread their wings in the distance and made circles in the sky. I was with a few bird-lover friends at the time and learned a lot from our discussions. The more I learned, the more exhilarated I felt about these amazing raptors.
|Falcons of Maryland|
|Characteristics||Bald Eagle||Golden Eagle|
|Flying Speed||20 – 40 mph||28 – 32 mph|
|Breeding Season||December – March||March-August|
|Length||28 – 40 inches||27 – 38 inches|
|Weight||8 – 15 pounds||8 – 13 pounds|
The differences between the 2 popular Eagles of Maryland are quite subtle, which is why it’s easy to identify them incorrectly. However, while we discuss the 2 raptors in-depth, a lot will clear out to you.
1. Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
- Length: 28-40 inches
- Weight: 8 – 15 pounds
- Wingspan: 71-91 inches
- Commonly Found in: Around water bodies
As we already mentioned, it has a very familiar look. First of all, its beak curves into a sharp point and is bright yellow in color. Despite the name, these eagles are not bald.
The feathers on its head are all white, while the body is a coat of sleek and brown feathers. The difference in the color of the feathers gives this bird a bald look. On the brown feathers of their body, there are several white spots in varying intensity clusters.
These eagles are commonly found all around the Chesapeake Bay and are among the largest birds in North America.
Bald eagles can fly very high in the skies, and when they fly, they spread their wings wide and flat along the sky. As they reach treetops, they start to flap their wings in slow but controlled beats.
You can often find these birds sitting on top of trees, but if you are really lucky, you might even see one up close on the ground, further away from everyone.
The Bald Eagle mainly feeds on fish, but they can also hunt and eat waterfowls, gulls, and even mammals if necessary. They will even eat garbage if they don’t find other suitable prey to feed on.
These raptors very commonly visit water bodies in order to look for fish. If you are keen on spotting a Bald Eagle, you should start your search by going to reservoirs, lakes, marshes, or other water bodies in the region. They are also sometimes spotted near fisheries as they hunt for their meal.
When they are catching fish from the water, these raptors fly straight at their target and snatch the fish right out of the water using their sharp talons.
These raptors exhibit one of their best hunting behaviors when they go after waterfowl.
If they spot a waterfowl, they will fly straight at them to scare them without attacking them. Once the waterfowl tires out, the eagle will take one final swoosh and snatch it right out of the water.
The Bald Eagle’s mating season begins in December and ends in March. During these months, the eagle will have various mating behaviors based on the area of its current residence.
However, the most popular mating display for the bird is called a cartwheel. To do a cartwheel, the male and female Bald Eagles will join their talons together while they are in midair and then take a freefall drop from there!
Just before they hit the ground, they will open their talons and fall beside each other. After this, they will take part in copulation while on the ground.
Bald Eagles are generally monogamous, which means that they mate with only one partner for life. They will only move on to find another partner if their first mate dies.
The bald eagle was made the national symbol for America in the year 1782 due to its widespread availability in all the states. However, their population has gone down tremendously due to human activities.
2. Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)
- Length: 26-40 inches
- Weight: 8 – 13 pounds
- Wingspan: 74–88 inches
- Commonly Found in: Hilly areas, mountainous regions, and cliffs.
Even though Golden Eagles are known to be found in Maryland, I didn’t see one until the third day of the trip. This was actually not expected at all since Golden Eagles are present but not found all across Maryland.
The Golden Eagles are mostly found in the western side of North America. These raptors have golden feathers on the back of their heads which extend down to their necks.
Like the Bald eagles, they have powerful beaks, but the color is grey rather than bright yellow. In fact, these birds are quite pale in appearance when compared to the mighty Bald Eagles.
The only colorful part of their bodies is their yellow feet, while their bodies are full of shiny brown feathers. These raptors also have white patches on their feathers, but only along the base of their tails and wings, which are barely visible when they are in flight.
The Golden Eagles aren’t seen very commonly in Maryland. However, they are seen mostly during Spring and Fall as they migrate from one place to another.
When they are in flight, Golden Eagles will not spread their wings flat out, but they hold their wings at a slight angle, forming a sort of V-like structure that helps them to glide through the forces of the wind at maximum efficiency.
With one good meal, Golden Eagles can very well survive a few days on a streak. They mainly feed on mammals such as rabbits, squirrels, and so on.
Golden Eagles are very daring with their prey because they will also take their chances trying to catch big mammals such as bear cubs and adult deer! Apart from this food preference, Golden Eagles will also feed on fish, depending on availability.
Golden Eagles generally nest at very high places. Their preferred nesting areas are cliffs, tall trees, or artificial structures that are high atop mountains.
This choice for high nests gives them the advantage of locating potential prey very easily as they have a very wide view of the grounds beneath them.
The hunting behavior of Golden Eagles actually varies, depending on factors such as the region, weather, and the type of prey. These raptors are generally more aggressive and steadfast in nature than Bald Eagles.
Due to their well-planned nests, these birds generally get a very good look around them. Golden Eagles have amazing eye sights, which further help them to spot prey from very far away.
Once they locate and fixate on prey, they will swoop on them and catch them without breaking their flight speed. All in all, Golden Eagles are dangerous predators that are not likely to lose out on their prey once they set to focus on it.
Golden Eagles are known to mate for life. During courtship, the male Golden Eagle will try to show off his eligibility by using a small piece of rock.
The male will go up in the air to drop this rock, and while the rock shoots down at the Earth, he will go after it with a much faster speed, catch it in the air, and bring it to the top again.
The male Golden Eagle will showcase the range of this speed to the female three times exactly in the same way.
If the female is impressed at the end of the show, she will scoop out a rock and then mimic the male. This is when the courtship is successful, and a pair is formed between the Golden Eagles.
The Golden Eagle is the national bird of many places in the world simultaneously. They represent the national emblem of Germany, Mexico, Austria, Kazakhstan, and Albania.
Although some humans used to hunt eagles back in the day, a majority of human beings share an extraordinary reverence for these extraordinary birds. Eagles, with their might and size, have quite an effect on us whether we like it or not.
From inflicting fear to demanding admiration, one thing is for certain, the eagles of Maryland will draw your attention and keep you glued in your place as you watch them spread their wings elegantly across the blue skies.
Image Credit: Jef Vreys, Shutterstock