New Hampshire is widely known for its eagle sightings all year round. Among the four species of eagles that are encountered in the United States, there are 2 species that you are guaranteed to find in New Hampshire. The bald eagle and the golden eagle.
While these eagles in New Hampshire are encountered all year long, their numbers increase in the winter season. This is because more eagles come to New Hampshire for warmer weather instead of facing a cold winter in the northern areas of the US.
2 Species of Eagle Found in New Hampshire
You might encounter other species of eagle in New Hampshire, but that will be quite a rare situation. That’s why most veteran birdwatchers and aviation observers state that there are only 2 types of eagles residing in New Hampshire.
The number of bald eagles is higher compared to the number of golden eagles in New Hampshire. Most bald eagles are permanent residents of NH. While there are a few golden eagles living in the forest and lake areas, the majority of golden eagles that are spotted during the winter season are migrating golden eagles.
Many bald eagles also migrate from Alaska and Canada to New Hampshire. But the increase in the number of bald eagles isn’t that huge compared to the increase of golden eagles.
|Name||Bald Eagle||Golden Eagle|
|Feather Color||Brown feathers cover the entire body, while the head is filled with white feathers||Black-brown feathers cover the whole body|
|Primary Food||Fishes||Small to mid-sized mammals|
|Mating Season||Early winter to late spring||Early spring to late summer|
|Unique Feature||White feathers cover the head and the neck||Feathers cover the entire leg, covering the area above the toes as well|
|Encounter Time in New Hampshire||Year-round||Year-round but mostly seen during the winter season|
1. Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
- Length: 27.9 to 40 inches
- Weight: 105 to 223 oz
- Wingspan: 70 to 90 inches
- Commonly Found In: Rivers and creeks around New Hampshire, Androscoggin River, Connecticut River, Coastal Area, Saco River
Almost 80% of bald eagles that are found in New Hampshire live there permanently. Unlike other northeastern states where bald eagles mainly come from the northern parts just to set themselves for the winter. You can find them near most waterbodies that host fishes that roam near the surface.
Sometimes bald eagles in New Hampshire visit human society when there isn’t any food source nearby. This mostly happens during the winter.
Speaking of winter, there are many bald eagles that move to New Hampshire for better weather and atmospheric conditions. The total increase is around 4 to 6%. There have been around 80 nesting pairs of bald eagles located in New Hampshire to this date.
Behavior & Characteristics
Knowing the behavior and characteristics of Bald eagles will help you understand them better. Bald eagles show the following behavior and characteristics:
Body & Feathers
These eagles are well known for their head and neck being filled completely with white feathers. But the rest of the bird’s body is covered with dark brown feathers with a white & grey highlight here and there.
The body of a female bald eagle is almost a quarter bigger compared to its male companions.
Bald eagles love to stay near their food source. That’s why most of their nests are found near open water bodies. This is also the reason why you might encounter bald eagle nests in some unusual places.
The nest of a bald eagle tends to be quite big. The width is somewhere between 4 to 6 feet, and it can weigh over tons. The total weight changes over the years as new layers get added each year.
These nests consist of sticks, leaves, and some occasional rocks and stones.
It takes a good amount of time for the bald eagle to build these nests, but this is an investment for the bald eagles as they don’t tend to abandon their nests.
They begin to breed when they are 4 years old. It begins in early winter and ends in late spring. Bald eagles choose their partners for life and spend their life with each other unless one dies.
When their mating season starts, they will start to isolate themselves and only go out of their nests when they are hungry.
Bald eagle’s calls are like high-pitched whistles, much like seagulls but on an elevated pitch. It might not be as intimidating compared to the majestic outlook of the bald eagles.
You can expect to hear them call out during the mating seasons or when they are facing any sort of threats or when they are feeding their children.
Bald eagles 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.
Their preferred attacking option is with their talons, but they will use their beaks if the prey is small or they are hunting on low water bodies.
Bald eagles are extremely social compared to other species, like the white-tailed eagle. They only hunt fishes that get closer to the surface, so unless they are provoked, they won’t attack people or animals.
That being said, there have been cases when they have attacked humans and animals. Most of the time, it was either due to hunger or attacking them first.
Facts About Bald Eagles
There are many facts about bald eagles that you may not know. We have discussed some of them here:
They Aren’t Bald
Many might think a bald eagle is an eagle that doesn’t have feathers on its head. But that is not the case for bald eagles. The word ‘bald’ comes from the old English word ‘Piebald’ that says ‘White Patch’.
This refers to the white feathers that cover a bald eagle’s head. So, it is not a naming mistake the old English is just slightly different from the current one.
Young Bald Eagles Are Identical to Golden Eagles
The iconic white feathers don’t come out until these eagles are 4 years old or above. Until then, the head is filled with brown feathers making them look identical to golden eagles.
They Were Enlisted as Endangered Species Not So Long Ago
In the Endangered Species Act in 1978, these birds were listed as on the verge of extinction. All across America, their numbers were declining due to illegal hunting and loss of natural habitat. There were only 417 nesting pairs remaining in 1963.
Through a lot of effort and care, the situation has improved and now 316,700 bald eagles are living in the US. And almost 80 active nesting pairs are currently residing in New Hampshire, and more join 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 New Hampshire, the Lake regions, Merrimack River
If it is a comparison between the number of bald eagles and golden eagles in New Hampshire, then the latter will come short. They can be found year-round, but it isn’t that often, and if you don’t know where they might prefer to live, then it can be a bit difficult task.
From October to November, they are most active in New Hampshire.
Behavior & Characteristics
Golden eagles show the following behavior and characteristics:
Body & Feathers
These eagles are natural hunters, and it shows in their overall outlook. They have a light body with sharp talons and wide wings that makes them extremely agile and strong compared to other birds of prey.
Their golden-brown feathers around the neck and crown are iconic. The rest of their body offers a similar but deeper brown feather all over. Young golden eagles have a bit darker feather color. The males are smaller compared to the females.
They want to know about their surrounding whenever they can, and that’s why their nests are generally on trees or cliffs that offers a complete overview of their surroundings. The partners construct their nests together. These nests tend to be 5 to 8 feet wide.
They choose their partners once in life and stay with each other until one falls. To choose a partner, the male eagle displays a show of courage and speed by going high up with an object throwing it down, and catching it at high speed.
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.
The sound is similar to whistles on the harbors but is highly pitched. They communicate with their partners over long distances with these calls. Also, the calls are better heard compared to bald eagles in general.
Most golden eagles hunt with their partners. One partner drives the prey directly to the other partner, then they go together for the kill, or just the other partner strikes first.
They prefer a stealthy approach, but if that fails, these birds are known to take an opponent head first. Golden eagles prefer small to mid-sized mammals like squirrels or rabbits. But known to attack small deer and bear cubs as well.
Mostly young golden eagles act without partners. When going solo, they will try to swoop in and take away their prey. The high agility of these creatures shines in this situation.
For hunting, they use their talons for their attacks. The beak is for eating only.
Generally, they are quite peace-loving, so they won’t suddenly start to attack you out of nowhere. They have a fearless nature, and for that reason, they won’t back down once they are provoked.
Interesting Facts about Golden Eagles
There are quite a few interesting facts regarding golden eagles. Take a look at some of them; you might be surprised:
Different Feather Structure than Others
Their feathers cover the whole body; there is no space where you can see no feathers. This feature only belongs to golden eagles. It is also the way to identify them from young bald eagles. Or any other eagles in this case.
Male Eagles Incubate the Eggs with Female Eagles
The male eagle joins with their partners when they are incubating its eggs. When the male takes over, the female eagle usually goes hunting or tends to sleep. That being said, the male eagles don’t incubate the eggs for too long; it is mostly done by the female eagles.
Takes Precautions to Avoid Bugs in the Nest
These eagles are extremely cautious when it comes to taking care of their homes. Apart from adding new layers to their nests every year, they bring in herbs and plants that fend off troublesome insects and smaller birds.
This precaution allows them to be safe from most attacks, and only other eagles or hawks generally bother them. The plants and aromatics depend on where the eagles are stationed, meaning where their nests are.
Eagles are quite a common sight in New Hampshire, especially bald eagles. Even though golden eagles aren’t much of a regular sight, if you can keep your eyes open and know where to look, you will find them too.
So, use this guide on eagles in New Hampshire to learn where they are most likely to reside, their characteristics, and their behavior patterns. And you will be able to become an expert on the eagles of New Hampshire in no time. Best of luck!
Image Credit: RLS Photo, Shutterstock