Species At Risk

Bald Eagle

(Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Special Concern

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle occurrences map


The Bald Eagle is a well-known bird of prey with a bright white head, neck and tail, and a dark brown body. Its massive beak is bright yellow, as are its powerful legs. Adults have piercing very pale eyes. Young eagles are mostly brown, variably speckled with white. Bald Eagles have a wingspan of just over two metres. They soar on flattened wings and in silhouette show as much head and neck in front of the wing as there is tail projecting behind.

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Bald Eagles are widely distributed throughout North America. In Ontario, they nest throughout the north, with the highest density in the northwest near Lake of the Woods. Historically they were also relatively common in southern Ontario, especially along the shore of Lake Erie, but this population was all but wiped out 50 years ago. After an intensive re-introduction program and environmental clean-up efforts, the species has rebounded and can once again be seen in much of its former southern Ontario range.


Bald Eagles nest in a variety of habitats and forest types, almost always near a major lake or river where they do most of their hunting. While fish are their main source of food, Bald Eagles can easily catch prey up to the size of ducks, and frequently feed on dead animals, including White-tailed Deer. They usually nest in large trees such as pine and poplar. During the winter, Bald Eagles sometimes congregate near open water such as the St. Lawrence River, or in places with a high deer population where carcasses might be found.


Historically Bald Eagles were shot as pests or trophies, and many shoreline areas where they bred were developed for housing or industry. Their largest decline came with the introduction of pesticides such as DDT that resulted in thin egg shells that broke as the adults tended to them. Although most of these threats have been reduced or eliminated, current Bald Eagle populations are impacted by the continued development of shoreline habitat and pollution.


The Bald Eagle is a special concern species under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act.

What You Can Do to Help the Bald Eagle

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as the Bald Eagle. You can use a handy online form to report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful. nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca
  • Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
  • Private land owners have a very important role to play in species recovery. If you find a Bald Eagle nesting on your land, you may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
  • Bird Studies Canada is working to advance the understanding, appreciation and conservation of wild birds and their habitat in Ontario and elsewhere. For more information on how you can help, visit: www.bsc-eoc.org.
  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.

Did you know?

Both Bald Eagle parents share the duty of incubating eggs and looking after their young.

Did you know?

Bald eagles were once a common sight in the skies of North America but by the 1950’s the population began to drastically decline because of the accumulation of DDT and other chemicals in their food chain. Use of these chemicals was restricted in the early 1970’s and eagle populations have started to rebound.

Did you know?

The raspy scream of the Bald Eagle that is often heard on movies and TV programs is, in fact, the call of a Red-tailed Hawk. The Bald Eagle actually gives a sort of watery, gurgling trill that doesn’t sound like it suits the bird.

Did you know?

Nesting begins up to three months earlier in the southern portion of their range compared to pairs that settle in the north.

The Endangered Species Act

Contact your local ministry office

Often the best source of local information on species at risk is your nearest ministry office. Call with your questions or concerns.