Bald Eagle Location: Where Do Bald Eagles Live?

Written by Colby Maxwell
Published: January 22, 2022
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Eagles are some of the most majestic birds around, earning them a spot on flags, medals, and banners worldwide. Among the eagle family, the bald eagle has earned a reputation as regal and representative of the United States. Knowing that, do bald eagles only live in the United States? If not, where else do they live? Let’s take a look at bald eagle locations and learn: where do bald eagles live?

What region of the world do bald eagles live in?

Bald Eagle Location: Where Do Bald Eagles Live? - bald eagles perched over water
Bald eagles live in the US, Mexico, and Canada.

FloridaStock/Shutterstock.com

While it may seem that bald eagles only live in the United States, these amazing birds are much more widespread than that! Bald eagles are North American birds that range as far north as Alaska and Northern Canada, all the way down to Mexico. As a result, different bald eagle populations have varying sizes, diets, nesting habits, and more. Still, they all share some similarities and have adapted to the areas they live in rather well.

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Where do most bald eagles live?

There are three countries that bald eagles live in: Canada, The United States, and Mexico. Among these three countries, the United States has the highest population of bald eagles. While that doesn’t seem surprising, it is almost exclusively the result of the United States ownership of Alaska. Alaska is home to over half of the entire world bald eagle population, although the lower 48 are making a comeback, as recent reports claim.

British Columbia and Mexico are home to around 20,000 eagles each. The eagles generally stay near the coasts, but each country still has their own native population.

What environment do bald eagles prefer?

Bald Eagle Location: Where Do Bald Eagles Live?
Bald eagles prefer open water and high perches to look for food.

Dennis W Donohue/Shutterstock.com

There are a few things that bald eagles prefer in a potential living area.

Some of the essentials include a good food base, high perching areas, and safe nesting sites. Among those, having an ample food base is usually the most important as eagles have learned to make do in other environments without the other two.

Their food is usually found near bodies of water and forests, making estuaries, rivers, large lakes, and coastal regions the ideal places for eagles to congregate. The massive population in Alaska is directly correlated to the plentiful food sources available in the region. The Alaskan salmon run is solely responsible for allowing the incredible numbers (and larger physical size) of bald eagles in the area. On the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, for example, 4,000 bald eagles congregate together on 48,000 acres in order to feed on the salmon within one stretch of nearby river. These feeding events happen all over the state.

Aside from food, bald eagles prefer mature trees to nest in. Since their nests are so heavy (the largest in the world), only large, mature trees are able to support the heavy weight. Smaller trees are likely to blow over or snap, especially when the snow and wind come in the cold seasons.

Can bald eagles live in extreme heat and cold?

Eagles have 7,000 feathers across their body that are specially designed to insulate them against the cold. With that adaptation, eagles can survive in areas as far north as ice allows them. Essentially, they live where ice doesn’t totally cover their feeding sources. They can take arctic temperatures and stay as far north as the tree line in northern Canada.

Going south, bald eagles can be found in areas as hot as the deserts in Arizona. Incredibly, there are desert nesting eagle populations that exist all around the state. There are 47 known nesting sites, with many of them living around Lake Mary and Mormon Lake near Flagstaff. Other sites are around large rivers like the Salt River and the Horse Mesa Dam.

Where can bald eagles nest?

Bald Eagle Location: Where Do Bald Eagles Live?
Bald eagles nest in tall, mature trees that can support their massive nests.

Mary Lynn Stephenson – Public Domain

Bald eagles live (and nest) in large mature trees. Their preferred trees vary on the areas they live in, but they often seek white pine, cottonwood, aspen, spruce, fir, oak, and hickory. These trees are able to grow quite high, making them ideal perches for the birds. Aside from trees, they are also known to nest in dead trees, transmission lines, manmade structures, and cell towers.

There are some locations where trees aren’t present, particularly in the artic and on rocky islands. An example of this are eagles on the Channel Islands. The islands are largely sheer rock, but food is plentiful since they are located around the rich seas of Alaska. As a result, bald eagles nest on the cliff faces and rocks, allowing them to feed even without the presence of tree cover.

Do bald eagles migrate?

Bald eagle populations do migrate, but not all of them. The biggest contributing factor for bald eagle migration is food. Eagles living in the north migrate south each year when ice begins to cover large portions of the sea or lakes that are nearby. Once these feeding sources are inaccessible, the eagles will often head south. The temperature isn’t as important to the eagles as the accessibility to food is. They usually migrate in late fall, early winter, returning between February and March when things start to warm back up.

There are year-round populations that never migrate, but they are scattered around North America. The Pacific Northwest up through the Alaskan coast are all year-round populations, with a few scattered around the eastern coast down through Florida.

Are bald eagles endangered?

Bald Eagle Location: Where Do Bald Eagles Live?
Bald eagles almost went extinct, but are now on the rebound.

FloridaStock/Shutterstock.com

Bald eagles are not endangered, but that wasn’t always the case. These amazing birds were on the brink of extinction for many years, with their low point in 1972 hitting only 417 nesting pairs. Since then, conservation efforts and the banning of DDT (a pesticide) have allowed them to rebound. In 2007, they were officially removed from the list of endangered animals when they crossed 100,000 individuals. It is known as one of the most successful conservation projects in history.

How many bald eagles are left in the world?

Currently, there are 316,000 eagles living in the lower 48 states of the US. Alaska is believed to have 50,000 individuals, but that number changes drastically with migrations. Additionally, Mexico and Canada are believed to have 20,000 individuals each, bringing the world total to somewhere around 450-500,000 wild birds, but that number isn’t exact.

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