The Bald Eagle Feeding Preferences
The reason why bald eagles prefer to live in areas near large bodies of water is because of their food. American eagles prefer habitats close to rivers, large lakes and seacoasts where warm fishes abound. They can be found in the bays of Louisiana and the eastern forests of Quebec and New England in Canada. If access to water is not a problem in their current territory, they will stay there all year round. Otherwise, they will migrate south or to the coastal areas during the winter to obtain their food.
During winter time usually from November to February each year, bald eagles assemble in certain areas. Some two thousand of them are seen in Squamish, British Columbia, between Vancouver and Whistler, where they feed on salmon in the Squamish and Cheakamus Rivers.
The bald eagle belongs to the sea and fish eagle family. Those living near coasts, rivers and lakes feed mostly on fish which account for 90 percent of their diet. They eat fish from both salt and fresh water. Did you know that eagles can eat a pound of fish in just four minutes? But despite being a fish eater, it can also feed on ducks and birds or other prey they can easily find such as muskrats, rabbits, snakes and turtles. Sometimes, they even eat carrion or dead and decaying flesh of animals.
When catching their prey from the water, bald eagles do not enter the water but rather swoop down and snatch the fish from the surface using their sharp talons. They can lift a maximum of four pounds in one snatch. They can also steal food from other eagles and preys by chasing and attacking them on certain occasions.
In the olden days, large groups of eagles were shot and killed by ranchers and farmers believing that they were part of raptors that killed their chickens, lambs and other domestic livestock.
Bald eagles can live without eating for several days. But if they don’t eat for a long time, their capacity to hunt for food to survive will be greatly affected. Parent eagles are also very generous with their food. If they catch a fish, for instance, the male eagle usually just eats the head and brings the remaining part to his family. Parent eagles take turns in hunting for food because one has to stay in the nest to watch their eggs or offspring against squirrels, snakes and gulls and to feed the eaglets.