Skip to main content

bald eagle

bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Features and Behaviors

An adult bald eagle is 30 to 31 inches long. This large bird has dark brown body feathers with some black feathers. The head, neck and tail feathers are white in mature birds. The bill, eyes and feet are yellow. Females are larger than males. Both sexes are similar in appearance.

The bald eagle is a common migrant and winter resident in Illinois. It is a rare summer resident although some eagles do nest in Illinois. This bird winters along the Illinois, Mississippi and Rock rivers and at large lakes and rivers where the winter waters are ice free. This bird feeds on small birds, carrion (dead animals), fishes, small mammals and wounded or ill waterfowl. It perches in the open branches of a tall tree near a body of water, open field or forest. Its call is "kweek-kik-ik-ik-ik-ik." Spring migration begins in February or March. When courting, the male and female lock talons in flight and fall several hundred feet together in a series of somersaults. The nest is built in an eastern cottonwood or sycamore tree. Two or three white eggs are laid in March or April. Young do not attain adult plumage for three or more years. Fall migration starts in August.

Reasons for Concern

Bald eagles are recently recovered from endangered species status. Humans are the main reason for bald eagle deaths in Illinois, either directly (shooting, poisoning, trapping) or indirectly (vehicle strikes, hitting power lines, electrocution).

Illinois Range


​Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Accipitriformes
Family: Accipitridae

Illinois Status: common, native