Of the many species of animal that can be found on your hour and a half tour of Naples Bay perhaps the most formidable and majestic is the American Bald Eagle. In order to give you a better picture of these beautiful birds of prey we offer some facts about the Bald Eagle’s habitat, prey, and mating rituals.
While a great many birds of prey tend to prefer mountainous regions of the country, the Bald Eagle is considered a sea eagle due to its frequent nesting in and around large bodies of water. The adult Bald Eagle will nest in large stands of coniferous and hardwood trees around bodies of water that are larger than seven miles across, this gives them a better perspective to view the terrain and prospective prey. Naples Bay, with its proximity to the Gulf Coast, offers all of the above for the Bald Eagle, large trees in which to roost and nest, easy access to prey and wide open spaces in which to hunt. While it is believed that the Bald Eagle avoids areas where there are an abundance of humans, this does appear to be somewhat of a generality since they can be seen perching on high rooftops of buildings and hunting in yards located near the water’s edge.
While it was noted above that the Bald Eagle lives close to the coast to ensure that it has an abundance of food available, there are times when the primary diet of fish is not plentiful enough to sustain life. In these times, the Bald Eagle will eat other mammals, like rabbits, hares, raccoons, muskrats, beaver, and even deer fawns before they grow too large. The Bald Eagle has also been found to be an opportunistic eater, feeding in garbage dumps and on carrion that can be as large as a whale.
The preferred method of catching their prey is to soar high above the water until it finds the right prey. It will then swoop down, clutch the prey in its claws and carry it to a place where it can eat undisturbed using one claw to pin its prey down and another to tear it into pieces it can eat.
When the Bald Eagle reaches maturity, usually between the ages of four or five, it will return to the place of its birth in order to find its mate for life. However, if a Bald Eagle is widowed, it will seek out a new mate. The mating habits of the Bald Eagle are nothing less than stunning. Usually the male will try to catch the eye of its prospective mate through a series of amazing acrobatic maneuvers. If he is successful in gaining her favor, the two will lock talons and begin a spiral down toward the earth breaking apart at the last minute.
The Bald Eagle’s nest is the biggest of all nesting birds as it can be up to four meters in circumference. The female Bald Eagle will lay up to three eggs in a year although rarely do all three hatch.
The American Bald Eagle has an average life span of twenty years with the oldest living to near 30 years. It should be noted that in captivity the eagle has been known to live up to 50 years with medical care, a consistent food supply, and no predatory activity.
A Bald Eagle sighting aboard the M/V Double Sunshine is enough to get all the passengers on their feet and running to the rails, so the next time you are out be sure to keep a keen eye on the tree tops and you just might see the living embodiment of the American Spirit. The American Bald Eagle.