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Eagle Adaptations:The Body

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photo: Ray Foster
Most bird bodies don't tell much about the bird's life until you look carefully at the wings, tail, and legs.

  • A bald eagle's body is mostly covered with skin and feathers. Important things are happening underneath!
  • The heart and lungs are so efficient that eagles can get enough oxygen to fly even at high altitudes.
  • Eagles have a fairly short tail. A longer tail would be useful for quick aerial maneuvers, but eagles fly slowly and directly, or spiral upwards on thermals in wide circles. That means a long tail wouldn't be useful for them, and might actually drag in water, making it difficult to snatch up a quick-moving fish.
  • Eagles swallow big chunks of fish and sometimes dead mammals or birds, bones and all. To digest them and to prevent sharp, jagged bone edges from piercing their intestines, eagle stomachs produce extremely strong acids. These acids also destroy most bacteria, so when eagles are scavenging on dead fish and other animals, they won't get sick.
  • The eagle's dark body feathers are good at absorbing sunlight, a big help when the eagle is fishing on a frigid January day. After a plunge after a fish, any ice that forms on the feathers will quickly melt as the sun hits those dark feathers.

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