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Frequently Asked Questions
Students' Questions and Experts' Answers
Contributed by Eagle Expert Peter Nye
Ways to use in the Classroom

Special thanks to Peter Eagle-Eye Nye for providing his time and expertise in responding to your questions!

From: Rolling Meadows High School
Rolling Meadows, Illinois

Q: Hello, my name is Amanda and I am a junior at Rolling Meadows High
School in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. Are there any Bald Eagles in my
neck of the woods? If so, would they be found in northern or
southern Illinois?

A: Hello Amanda,
There sure are eagles in Illinois! Hopefully, you have access to a computer; try "googling" Illinois Bald Eagles and I think you'll be surprised at what you get back.

  • This is one of my favorites (Bald Eagle Info.): >>

It has been reported that as many as five thousand Bald Eagles winter on the river between Cairo, Illinois and St. Paul, Minnesota, tending to concentrate near several large dams. I find that figure a bit high. But there is no doubt that the Mississippi River, in particular, with extensive open water (due to hydro-electric dams) and fish they provide, is a major attraction to wintering Bald Eagles. And, of course, you've got that famous "Quad Cities" area along the River, with annual winter concentrations of eagles.

  • Also check out this Web site (IL Raptor Center): >>
It talks about eagle viewing along the Illinois River.
Finally, you might check out the Illinois Conservation Department web
site to search for information they surely have on Bald Eagles in
your state.
It would be interesting to ask them or others in the know about
eagles in your state, if this winters’ count is way down compared to
past years, due to the mild weather. Our count is down because of the mild winter.

From: McKinney, Texas

Q: Your maps are focused on the Northeastern Part of the United States. Today, at the Heard Natural History Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary in McKinney Texas, we saw a Bald Eagle flying high, over our Sycamore Trail. Bald Eagles have been sighted there before. Why does the map only show that one part of the United States?

A: The maps focus on the Northeast United States because that is where our eagle research has focused, and so you are seeing only a small piece of eagle behavior from one part of our country. Eagles, both wintering and breeding eagles, are found in every state except Hawaii. Many people have studied eagle movements over the years in different places around the country, but now, you are seeing just the Northeast United States research. You certainly do have eagles in Texas. I suggest you check with your Texas Parks and Wildlife folks for more

They have a great page on Bald Eagles, considered a "threatened" species in Texas. Take a look (PDF): >>

From: Pine Ridge Christian School
Holland, Michigan

Q: Why do we have 20-30 Bald Eagles on Lake Macatawa in Holland, Michigan? This has not happened before.

A: I have to guess here, based on just the little bit of information you gave me. I assume you mean they are here now in the winter, not as breeding birds (or you would have noticed them many times before each summer). I wonder if your lake is open water (or partially so) or if it is frozen ?? I can tell you why the eagles are there, almost without question; because they are finding food there! This could either be from carrion (dead animal carcasses such as deer), or perhaps a fish-kill, or a particularly good concentration of waterfowl.
Check it out further and let us know!

Sky blue NY leg band
Red band used in Maine
From: Ossining, New York
Park Early Childhood Center

Q: What color band is U21?

A: It is "sky blue", as I like to call it. Every New York State eagle gets the same color blue band. It tells us immediately that if an eagle is spotted somewhere with a blue band, it is one of our New York birds. All color banding of eagles (and other birds) is coordinated by a federal agency (the United States Dept of the Interior) and housed in Maryland at a place called the Bird Banding Laboratory. All bird bands are issued from here and reported back here when used. Care is taken to try to assign unique colors and/or codes to different researchers at different locations. This helps to eliminate confusion when a color-banded bird is seen by someone.
I've attached a close up of one of our blue bands for you to see, as well as another eagle with a red band that we spotted during the winter in New York that was banded in Maine. Pretty cool, huh ?

Q: Please explain the significance of bands and colors.

A: See explanation above. If only the color of the band is seen, it tells us it is from New York (if it's blue). If the actual alphanumeric (the letter-number code) is read, we can tell exactly where the eagle was banded or born and when (how old it is).

From: Donna

Q: What does the female eagle do when she gets older? I heard that she plucks all of her feathers out and she makes her beak fall off, then grows another one and new feathers, and becomes more beautiful than she was before. Could you please let me know about this. Thank You, Donna

A: Donna, I'd like to meet the person who told you this ! That is definitely not true. What is true, that you might be confusing a bit, is that each year all eagles, regardless of their age or sex, molt (lose) and replace their feathers, so they do indeed get new, strong, perfect ones, and as they do, I'm sure they do, look better! This has nothing to do with age.

From: Lazar

Q: I recently stumbled across some information that stated eagles fly into storms, use the winds of the storm to gain altitude, and that they rise way above the storm. I haven't been able to find any scientific resource to support that and wanted to know if you know anything about this statement or whether you could direct me to a reliable source that will confirm it or deny it.

A: Lazar, I have never heard of this behavior exactly as you describe it. This sounds like stretching or misinterpreting what eagles do, which might have confused some folks. Eagles definitely do use the winds (and some quite strong), as well as "updrafts" coming off hills and mountains. This helps them to gain altitude and set them up for a long, soaring flight to another location, especially when they migrate great distances north or south. This behavior saves considerable energy, and the eagles hardly have to flap their wings; pretty smart I say, using the winds to their advantage.

Peter E. Nye
New York State Dept. Environmental Conservation
Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources
Albany, NY
Spring, 2006

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