Discover Taos

Taos wildlife: Bald eagle

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The bald eagle — the brave, strong and inspiring animal symbol of our nation — is the only eagle unique to North America. They can be found circling in the skies and perched in the trees along waterways of Northern New Mexico, down to northern Mexico and up to Canada.

Being a symbol of America, they are easily identified. These majestic birds of prey are not really bald or void of feathers at all. In the olden days, “bald” meant white, which is the color of their head and tail feathers. Their bodies are mostly brown. Their eyes are an unmistakable pale yellow and are about the size of a human eye, yet are estimated to be four times more keen.

Their primary food source is fish. A bald eagle’s lifting power is about 4 pounds. It is not uncommon to see them along the Río Grande and the marshes, lakes, grasslands and streams of Northern New Mexico on the search for a meal.

The bald eagle weighs an average of 6.5 to 14 pounds with a wingspan up to 8.5 feet. The feathers weigh twice as much. Females are usually larger than males. Because an eagle’s bones are hollow, they are light. The beak, talons and feathers are made of keratin. 

The life expectancy of a bald eagle is up to an impressive 50 years.

If you’re out in the wilds, you may not know you’re hearing an eagle’s call as it is a rather passive cry for such a large, grand bird. When near their nests, bald eagles emit a squeaky alarm call and a similar sound typically synchronized with a vertical head toss. They also call while in flight. The "screaming" often mistakingly associated with the bald eagle is actually that of the red-tailed hawk, another common bird that makes Northern New Mexico its home.

Among many Pueblo tribes, according to native-languages.org, “bald eagles are considered one of the six directional guardians, associated with the upward direction, spirituality and balance. In the mythology of some tribes, Eagle plays a leadership role either as king of the birds or as a chief who humans interact with. In other legends, Eagle serves as a messenger between humans and the Creator.”

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