The Bald Eagle, part of the Sarasota Patriot logo has been our national symbol since 1782, and is perhaps the most written about species in North America. Instantly recognizable across the land, it represents one of America’s greatest conservation successes. Once endangered due to pesticides and persecution this majestic bird has rebounded and flourished in Florida and across the United States.
Bald Eagles in Florida
Florida has one of the densest concentrations of nesting bald eagles in the lower 48 states, with an estimated 1,500 nesting pairs. Concentrations of nesting territories are clustered around several significant lake, river, and coastal systems throughout the state. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has monitored the population of nesting bald eagles in Florida for over 40 years.
Bald eagles have some biological characteristics unique to Florida. Nearly all bald eagle nests in Florida are built within 1.8 miles of water. Most clutches of eggs in Florida are laid between December and early January. Incubation lasts about 35 days. Nestlings in Florida fledge, or become able to fly from the nest, at around 11 weeks of age and remain with their parents near the nest for an additional 4-11 weeks. Most of Florida's breeding bald eagles, especially those nesting in the extreme southern peninsula, remain in the state year-round, but most subadults, or birds not quite fully mature, and non-breeding adults migrate out of Florida.
Eagles migrate northward between April and August and return southward from late July through late December. Juveniles migrate northward later than older subadults. Most juveniles disperse at about 128 days of age and spend their first summer as far north as Newfoundland, with peak numbers summering around Chesapeake Bay and the coastal plain of North Carolina. Florida's bald eagles use three migration flyways - the Atlantic coast, Appalachian Mountains, and the Mississippi River valley - with equal frequency, and they use stopover sites for resting or foraging.
Bald eagles are opportunistic foragers, feeding or scavenging on a wide variety of prey. Primary prey of eagles in Florida includes various fish and waterfowl species. Prey from one study in north-central Florida was composed of 78% fish (mostly catfish, especially brown bullhead), 17% birds (mainly American coot), 3% mammals, and 1% amphibians and reptiles combined.