Adaptations: The Beak
for labeled photo
An eagle's whole head is designed for its fishing and scavenging lifestyle.
- Its head
is covered with protective feathers. As the bird reaches maturity
at 4 - 6 years of age, the dark brown feathers on its head are replaced
with white ones. Adults keep that "bald" head for life.
Eagles of the opposite sex will recognize this one as a potential
mate, and eagles of the same sex will respect its territorial boundaries.
Although eagles eat roadkill, they take most of it in winter when
dead animals are frozen and aren't likely to be covered with maggots,
so they don't need the featherless heads of vultures.
have excellent hearing, even though we can't see their ears.
The ears, behind their eyes, are protected by a layer of feathers.
sense of smell is probably no better than ours. Eagles have some
bristly feathers protecting their nostrils.
eat a lot of fish and scavenge on a lot of dead animals. It's hard
to be sure how well developed their sense of taste is. They have
few tastebuds, and their tongue is muscular and shorter
than their beak so they can't bite it.
- The beak is
strong and thick, and sharply pointed at the downward tip to rip
into a fish or a frozen roadkill, but the mouth is wide enough at
the gape (the "corners" of the mouth, where the upper and
lower beak meet) to handle fairly big chunks. Although the beak is
clearly designed for ripping apart meat, parent eagles can also use
it to tenderly feed and groom their babies.