Alaska is home to more bald eagles than anywhere else in the world. The majestic birds enjoy the cooler climate and easy availability to their favorite food, fish. Bald eagles have been found in 48 U.S. states, but even those who travel as far south as Mexico migrate to Alaska or, in some cases, Canada.
Bald eagles dwell almost exclusively in the United States and Canada, with a few traveling as far south as Mexico. But around 1960, pesticides and hunters nearly eradicated the eagle population in the U.S., and the bald eagle was placed on the endangered species list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The chemical pesticide DDT, which weakened the birds' systems and ability to reproduce, was banned in 1972 and, since that time, the eagle population has recovered substantially.
Home Sweet Home
More than half of the world's total bald eagle population lives in Alaska, followed by British Columbia. Estimates indicate that Alaska is home to 70,000 eagles, with another 20,000 in British Columbia. Before eagles nearly became extinct, they could be found in large numbers in the lower 48 states in Florida and Louisiana. Since 1990, they are most numerous outside of Alaska in Florida, Minnesota and Wisconsin. They are increasingly spotted in more U.S. states as their numbers continue to increase.
Bald eagles are drawn to areas with large bodies of water, especially those that are home to salmon -- an eagle favorite. They have also been called "sea" eagles because they typically make their home in areas near water where fish are abundant. Much of an eagle's time away from the nest is spent hunting for fish, so they build their nests within two miles of the best fishing they find. An eagle will dine on carrion or small mammals when fish are not available.
Eagles are territorial and tend to return to favorite fishing spots year after year. Young eagles are not fully grown until about 5 years of age and roam large distances until then -- as far as up and down the distance of the U.S. coast. Once mature, they mate and choose a nesting spot. Eagles are believed to mate for life and build very large nests of sticks high in trees where a pair will hatch up to three eggs each season. They prefer a quiet area, usually fairly close to the water.