Eagles are a majestic and iconic symbol of the United States, and Massachusetts is no exception.
In this article, Let’s explore three types of eagles that can be found in the Bay State: the Golden Eagle, the Bald Eagle, and the Steller’s Sea Eagle.
Types of Eagles in Massachusetts
Massachusetts is home to three of the four eagle species found in North America.
Golden Eagles, Bald Eagles, and Steller’s Sea-Eagles are these birds.
However, sightings of the Steller’s Sea-Eagle are uncommon in the Bay State.
Because of their size and strength, eagles have long been associated with the title of “king of the skies,” and they have developed a close psychological and even physical bond with humans.
Eagles are powerful symbols for humans because of the respect and awe we have for them.
We have also put them to use as hunting tools.
If you’ve ever seen an eagle in Massachusetts and weren’t sure what kind it was, this article should assist.
1. Golden Eagle
Although golden eagle sightings across Massachusetts are quite rare, they have occurred on a few winter occasions.
The golden eagle is the most common eagle species worldwide.
Their golden-brown head and neck really stand out in the correct lighting.
Their flying feathers are lighter in color than the rest of their bodies.
The color of their eyes may range from pale yellow to deep brown.
The tip of their bill is black, and the skin that connects the beak to the forehead is a bright yellow.
Adults of both sexes seem identical; however, women tend to be somewhat bigger overall.
Juveniles resemble adults but are often darker, even seeming black on the back.
The undersides of their wings and the tips of their tails are both white.
There are six distinct subspecies of Golden Eagle, including the North American Golden Eagle, Iberian Golden Eagle, Kamchatkan Golden Eagle, Japanese Golden Eagle, Asian Golden Eagle, and European Golden Eagle.
The size and subtle variations in plumage color are the most obvious ways to tell them apart.
During the winter, golden eagles from Alaska and Canada migrate south toward northern Mexico and the United States, where the climate is more favorable for them.
However, the Golden Eagles in the western states of the United States stay all year.
Golden Eagles like high-altitude treeless environments in the mountains.
When breeding, they may also be seen in canyons, on cliffs beside rivers, and on bluffs.
They tend to shy away from others.
Watch the video below if you’re not afraid of heights and want a glimpse inside a Golden Eagle’s day.
Because of their status as predators, Golden Eagles naturally target tiny to medium-sized mammals. This includes prairie dogs, hares, and rabbits.
They have been known to sometimes hunt and kill bigger animals, including cranes, swans, and even cattle.
They often work in teams, with one member pursuing the target until it becomes exhausted and the other swooping in for the kill.
During the breeding season, when chicks are pleading with their parents, Golden Eagles emit the majority of their vocalizations.
Besides that, they don’t make much noise. They communicate with whistled cries of a very high pitch.
Golden Eagles often build their nests on cliff faces or other very high locations.
They often construct them in trees, but they sometimes use man-made structures like towers and platforms for nesting and watching, and even windmills.
They’re elevated so the parents can survey their territories with ease.
Nests for golden eagles are constructed from sticks and plant material and can take 1 to 3 months to complete.
In order to keep insects and other pests out of their nests, they line them with fragrant leaves.
These nests are reused year after year, and over time, the adults add more and more building materials, allowing the nests to expand.
The female lays anywhere from 1 to 3 eggs, which are then incubated by both parents for 42 days. It takes 37 hours for the egg to develop into a chick.
Only three raptor species in the Americas — the Ferruginous Hawk, the Golden Eagle, and the Rough-legged Hawk — have feathers all the way down to their toes.
2. Bald Eagle
The bald eagle is a year-round resident of Massachusetts.
2% of summer and 4% of winter checklists reported by bird watchers in the state include them as species seen.
One of the most recognizable birds of prey is the majestic Bald Eagle.
It has a big, hooked, yellow beak and a white head with bright yellow eyes.
It has a chocolate-brown body and golden legs with enormous talons.
In appearance, females are quite identical to males, with the exception that they are around 25% bigger.
Before their fifth year, juveniles’ heads and bodies are a uniform dark brown with white mottling or streaking.
Bald eagles spend the winter in the United States after spending the breeding season in Canada.
Nonetheless, there are others who choose to spend the winter (and every winter afterward) at their seaside homes.
The breeding season for the Bald Eagle occurs in wetland habitats.
Ideal locations have open, expansive bodies of water teeming with fish.
Bald eagles need old, towering trees with an open structure that provides a clear view of the forest floor, whether roosting, perching, or breeding.
They also need proximity to water.
Bald eagles congregate in the winter near bodies of unfrozen water where there is plenty of fish to eat.
When there is nowhere to get water that hasn’t frozen, bald eagles will flock to open areas with animals of a similar size, such as meadows and grasslands.
The Bald Eagle is an opportunistic eater, meaning that it will consume whatever is most readily accessible.
They eat mostly fish and especially huge fish like salmon and trout.
It’s possible that these birds either actively hunt for these fish or steal them from other species.
Carrion (dead) fish is another food source occasionally consumed by these animals.
Larger birds, such as herons, ducks, geese, and owls, are also a staple of their diet.
When fishing is less fruitful in the winter, bald eagles switch to hunting mammals.
They will first target frail, dying, or young victims. They hunt beavers, squirrels, rabbits, deer fawns, and raccoons.
The squeak of the Bald Eagle doesn’t really fit its shape as they make a somewhat depressing high-pitched whistle!
Nests of Bald Eagles seem to be large and strong to be capable of withstanding their weight and size.
They create a stick nest, roughly 6.0 feet in circumference and 4.1 feet high.
The male delivers the materials like moss, grass, sticks, and downy plumage, after which the female puts them all together.
Bald Eagles’ nests are regarded as the biggest of any bird across North America.
Females might hatch 1 to 3 eggs every year in the wild. In captivity, they might hatch a maximum of seven eggs.
The parents take turns in nursing the eggs for 35 days. Whoever isn’t guarding the nest has the responsibility of finding food for the other members of the pair.
Since 1782, when it was adopted, the Bald Eagle has represented the United States as its official emblem.
Its name may suggest otherwise, but despite the stereotype, this item is not hairless.
The original “bald” meant “white,” a reference to the creature’s whitish head and tail.
3. Steller’s Sea-Eagle
Steller’s Sea-Eagles are very uncommon in Massachusetts and are thus listed as a species of special concern by the state.
In the dead of winter, they have been observed in the Bristol area.
The Steller’s sea eagle is the biggest member of the Haliaeetus genus and one of the heaviest eagles in the world.
Females tend to be bigger than males; however, both sexes may weigh up to 9 kg.
It features a white forehead, a big yellow hooked bill, and yellowish eyes with black pupils.
Its body is a dark brown or black color, and it has white highlights on the abdomen, shoulders, legs, wings, and tail.
Its talons, which are golden, are quite sharp.
Juveniles seem like smaller versions of adults, with darkened tail tips and no white on the shoulders.
It takes them about four years to develop adult coloration.
There is a very unusual dark morph of the Steller’s Sea-Eagle that has all black plumage except for a white tail.
Steller’s Sea-Eagles are most often seen along the rocky coastlines and rivers of northern Siberia in Russia.
During the colder months, they go to the coasts of Korea, China, and Japan, where they spend time in coastal cities and on lakes. However, they sometimes go to the Americas.
Species are a staple diet for Steller’s Sea-Eagles, and they prefer river fish such as salmon and trout, which they can catch in very shallow water.
Dead salmon are more plentiful in regions with unfrozen water in the fall, so they also eat them.
Ducks, swans, geese, and cranes are only some of the waterfowl they may hunt and eat in other regions.
They also consume mammals as a portion of their diet.
Arctic foxes, American minks, red foxes, and tiny domestic dogs are their favorites.
The nests, or “aeries,” of the Steller’s Sea Eagle may be up to 100 feet from the ground, perched on tree tops or rocky outcrops.
They build their nests high up but yet quite near bodies of water, making it easier to get food.
The nests of Steller’s Sea Eagles are enormous, tangled webs of branches and twigs. Since they reuse the nests, they must be well-constructed; thus, they add extra sticks and branches as needed.
The nest may contain anything from 1 to 3 eggs, all of which are laid by the female.
The incubation period might take up to 45 days.
The young birds need extensive care for the first several months of their lives, beginning with the time they hatch and continuing until they are able to take flight.
Threats to Steller’s Sea-Eagles include the degradation of their natural habitat, overfishing, and industrial pollution.
A Steller’s Sea Eagle will construct a backup nest in the event that the first nest grows too heavy for the branches it is perched on and collapses.
The several eagle species found across Massachusetts are discussed in this article.
I really hope this information helps you in your quest to determine the different eagle species in Massachusetts.
The aforementioned birds are excellent candidates for your first state-wide sightings checklist.
Most live in evergreen or deciduous woods, wooded areas, and grasslands.
If you’re fortunate, you’ll even discover some in residential areas.
What other bird would a person think is an eagle when they see it?
From a distance, a Red-tailed Hawk may be mistaken for a Bald Eagle due to their similar form, but a Red-tailed Hawk’s wings are shorter, its head is smaller, and its overall coloring is more muted than that of a Bald Eagle’s.
Which eagle strikes terror into the hearts of its prey the most often?
Many people believe the Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja) to be the strongest species of eagle on Earth. This species is a fearsome predator because of its large tarsi (legs), robust toes, and sharp talons.
Can you name the state's rarest bird?
Fewer than five thousand exist globally. An adult Steller’s sea eagle can reach a weight of 20 lbs and a wing span of 8 feet. As the bird’s native range is in Asia, recent sightings of it all the way along the Taunton River put it as far as possible from its home.
How can you determine whether that bird is an eagle or a hawk?
Size is a major contrast between them. The wingspan of an eagle is much bigger than that of a hawk. Hawks seem similar to eagles at first glance, but closer inspection reveals that hawks have broader, shorter wings and stockier bodies.
Last Updated on March 22, 2023 by Lily Aldrin