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North Carolina Wildlife Species Information

Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 32 inches Wingspan: 80 inches
  • Sexes similar
  • Very large, broad-winged, broad-tailed hawk
  • Rounded wings
  • Thick, hooked bill
  • Plucks fish from water with talons


  • White head and upper neck
  • White tail
  • Dark brown body plumage
  • Yellow bill


  • Dark bill and dark cere
  • Dark brown body plumage, including head and tail
  • Variable amounts of white on underwing coverts, belly, and back
  • White head and tail, and dark underwings are gradually acquired in four years

Similar species:

Turkey Vulture has a tiny, unfeathered head, holds its wings in a dihedral, and has contrastingly paler flight feathers. Golden Eagle can be quite similar to immature Balds, or to adults at a distance but is all dark as an adult and as an immature has white restricted to the bases of the flight feathers and the bases of the tail feathers. The white is confined to crisp patches on the wing and tail, and is not blotchily scattered about underwings coverts as in immature Bald Eagles. Immature Golden Eagles have yellow ceres while immature Balds have dark ceres.

Length and wingspan from: Robbins, C.S., Bruun, B., Zim, H.S., (1966). Birds of North America. New York: Western Publishing Company, Inc.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Murphy.

Above information used courtesy of United States Geological Survey Patuxent. 

Information about the Bald Eagle coming off of Endangered Species List at the US Fish & Wildlife Service Web site.

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