Government of New Brunswick
BaldEagle

Regionally endangered 1976

  • Builds the largest nest of any bird in North America.

Important conservation tips for this species:

  • Limit changes to the environment around a nesting site.
  • Avoid disturbing a nesting pair.
 

Description

With its white feathered head and tail and yellow feet and bill, the bald eagle is a distinctive bird of prey. It develops its vivid plumage only as it reaches maturity at four or five years of age. The young bird is entirely brown for its first two years of life. After this, it begins to develop white feathers. Its toes are equipped with the strong, sharp talons used to capture its prey. A large, hooked bill enables it to dispatch prey and to tear food into pieces. The eagle can capture large fish. It also feeds on carrion, especially in the winter. Aquatic birds and small mammals are part of its diet as well. In New Brunswick, the bald eagle begins to nest as early as February. Breeding occurs in April through mid-May. Any disturbance during this sensitive period may cause the bird and its mate to abandon their nest. The young usually leave the nest by the end of August.


 

Habitat

The bald eagle uses sticks and plant material to build its nest in the top of a tall tree – often a large white pine. It usually uses the same nest for a number of years. The bald eagle becomes territorial during breeding season, and will defend an area up to two kilometres around its nest. It prefers a site near open water – an abundant source of fish. In New Brunswick, a number of our coastal islands provide suitable habitat and are common nesting sites. In winter, the bird is frequently found in the southwestern part of the province – a good source of food since the Bay of Fundy does not freeze over.


 

Distribution

New Brunswick has two different bald eagle populations. One is a permanent resident and spends it winters here. The other migrates annually to the southeastern United States. The eagle can be found throughout the province, but is more common in the southwestern region near open water. The species’ range extends across Canada – except for the Prairies and the Arctic – to just south of the United States. The largest concentration of bald eagles in eastern North America is found in Cape Breton.