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The Bald Eagle's Adaptations

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Bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) once inhabited all of North America, but now more commonly live to the south of the region, in areas such as California, Arizona and the Gulf of Mexico. These large, majestic birds are keen hunters and spend a lot of time soaring the skies looking for food. Certain adaptations contribute to their superb predatory skills.


The term "eagle-eyed" is an accurate description for excellent vision. A bald eagle's eyesight is four to eight times better than that of a human. This means they can easily spot potential prey from far above the ground, where other birds wouldn't see it. Eagles also have a bony ridge above their eyes that minimizes glare from the sun. These adaptations greatly improve their hunting ability, helping them to find all the food they need.

Catching Prey

It's crucial to spot your prey, but if you can't grab it you won't be eating dinner. Bald eagles have specially adapted feet and talons to help them out. A series of bumps on the bottom of their feet -- known as spicules -- help them hold on to their prey during flight. They also have razor-sharp talons that they use to grab their prey, kill it and tear into its flesh.


Bald eagles have several useful adaptations to help them devour their prey. In addition to talons, they use their sharp, pointed beaks to tear into and eat their meals. They primarily eat fish -- although also some birds, mammals and reptiles -- and their beaks are tough enough to tear and eat the flesh of larger prey bite by bite. When they catch a smaller dinner, they'll eat it in one sitting, but they'll regurgitate its bones and other indigestible parts.


Rather than flying and striking quickly, like other birds of prey, eagles soar slowly above the ground, utilizing natural air currents. Extremely large wingspans -- sometime more than 7 1/2 feet -- allow them to easily catch the currents and drift through the air. This conserves a lot of energy, meaning they can stay up in the air looking for prey for a longer amount of time before tiring.