Bald Eagle Wingspan: How It Compares to Other Birds?

Bald eagle wingspan

The bald eagle’s wingspan is one of the three longest wingspans among the numerous bird species in North America. This majestic bird typically features a white head and tail, a brown body, and yellow feet. 

Contrary to its name, bald eagles don’t actually have bare heads. Their name was derived from the old English term “Balde,” which means white, a nod to the white feathers that cover their heads and tails. 

If you’re curious to learn about the bald eagle’s wingspan, the surprising size difference between a male and female bald eagle, and the factors that affect an eagle’s wingspan, this article is perfect for you.

What Is the Wingspan of a Bald Eagle?

Bald eagle with wings stretched out

The wingspan of a bald eagle is the length between the wingtips of its spread-out wings. A bird’s wingspan and size are also what determine a bird’s flight style and how fast it can glide through the air. 

Bald eagles are one of nature’s largest raptors, with wings that can span from around 71 to 91 inches. They are typically 28 to 38 inches tall and can weigh around 6 to 14 pounds.

Generally, the bald eagle’s wings are long and broad. These allow the eagle to soar and glide by vigorously and swiftly flapping its wings.

The strength, durability, and impressive length of the bald eagle’s wingspan are ideal for flying and soaring for long periods without relying heavily on wind currents for speed and direction. 

The bald eagle’s broad wings also allow it to take off quickly and swiftly as well as pick up speed within short distances. Its wings are also great for sorting through obstacles at low densities. 

How Is Wingspan Measured?

In order to obtain a bird’s wingspan, certain deceased birds are ethically collected for scientific research. The bird’s wings are carefully stretched to their maximum extent to measure the length between their wingtips.

Although wingspans may also be obtained from live birds, the process of containing and measuring them is often very challenging due to their restlessness. This may cause them stress and affect their health negatively.

Some ornithologists are also able to come up with an estimation of the wingspan of an eagle. They take the length between the middle of the bird’s back to the tip of one fully stretched wing and multiply the length by two.

Bald Eagle Wingspan Compared to Other Birds of Prey

Bald eagle flying above water

The bald eagle’s wingspan is the third longest wingspan among several large birds in North America. It shares a similar length to the golden eagle, with a one-inch difference in its maximum eagle wingspan. 

Unlike the bald eagle, the California condor and the turkey vulture have unique tendons that help keep their wings extended and locked. These allow them to spend longer periods soaring easily and smoothly. 

On the other hand, the advantage of a bald eagle’s wingspan and shape is its capability to combine gliding with a flight style that involves swiftly and effortlessly flapping its wings to gain more speed. 

Below is a table summarizing the wingspan of the six largest birds in North America, including the average wingspan of a bald eagle:

California Condor108 – 122 inches
Golden Eagle71 – 92 inches
Bald Eagle71 – 91 inches
Turkey Vulture63 – 72 inches
Osprey60 – 72 inches
Red-tailed Hawk42 – 58 inches

Another advantage of the bald eagle’s wingspan is its ability to fly extremely close to bodies of water to catch fish that swim near the surface with the use of its strong hooked beak. 

Due to their common choice of food, bald eagles are typically found near forests and bodies of water such as lakes, swamps, rivers, and seas.

Check out the video below to see a bald eagle in action:

Bald Eagle Feeding Frenzy | United States of Animals

Male vs. Female Bald Eagle Wingspan

Unlike other birds and animals, the female bald eagle’s wingspan is longer than the male’s. Female bald eagles also tend to have larger bodies than male bald eagles. 

Generally, male bald eagle wingspans can reach up to 77 inches, and they are typically 36 inches tall. Meanwhile, female bald eagle wingspans can reach up to 91 inches, and they can grow up to 43 inches tall. 

According to ornithologists and researchers, females may have larger wingspans and bodies to protect their eggs from large and aggressive predators and other bald eagles.

Other studies suggest that the difference between the male and female bald eagle wingspan permits each eagle to hunt prey of different sizes and avoid competing with one another for the same prey type and size.

Do Bald Eagle Wingspans Vary Across Species?

Bald eagle in flight

Similar to many other birds, bald eagle wing spans typically vary across the range of this species. Aside from eagle wingspan, these birds may also vary in size and shape.

Having visited most areas in the United States in line with my research and studies, I have also observed that Southern bald eagles usually have smaller sizes and slightly shorter wingspans.

On the other hand, whenever I travel to the northern states, especially Alaska, I notice that they have the largest bald eagle sizes and wingspans.

Factors Affecting Bald Eagle Wingspans

Generally, the wingspan of an eagle is often determined by its genetics. A bald eagle may inherit a long or slightly shorter wingspan, depending on the wingspan and size of its parents. 

Aside from genetics, age is another factor affecting a bald eagle’s wingspan. Like many other animals, these birds typically reach their maximum body size and wingspan when they turn a year old. 

Other factors that often affect the wingspan of a bald eagle are the length and width of its wings. Not only do these factors affect the bald eagle’s wingspan measurement, but they also affect its performance during flight.

Generally, birds with long and narrow wingspans often perform minimal flapping during a flight. These types of wings are excellent for soaring or gliding for long periods, though they tend to depend on wind currents.

Meanwhile, birds with short and wide wingspans are capable of taking off quickly and picking up speed in short and limited distances. These birds don’t rely on wind currents since they often flap their wings during a flight.

The bald eagle’s wings typically fall in between both categories. They have a combination of long and broad wings that come with the ability to soar for long periods and pick up speed by flapping during a flight.

Frequently Asked Questions

Bald eagle perched in a branch

What Bird Has the Widest Wingspan?

As seen in the previous sections, the bird with the largest wingspan in North America is the California condor. This large bird has an average wingspan of around 108 to 122 inches. 

The bird with the widest wingspan is the Wandering Albatross. This bird has a wingspan of around 138 to 145.2 inches. As seen in its name, the Wandering Albatross spends most of its life flying and only lands to feed.

How Big Is the Biggest Bald Eagle?

The biggest recorded bald eagle has a wingspan of 96 inches, is 43 inches tall, and weighs around 14 pounds. It can be quite difficult and rare nowadays to spot a bald eagle with this particular size and wingspan. 

Although bald eagles were initially hunted for sport, they are now seen as a representation of victory for animal conservation and a national symbol of freedom in America. 

What’s the Biggest Thing a Bald Eagle Can Pick Up?

Under the right conditions, the bald eagle can carry things that are even a little heavier than its own body weight. These may include logs or branches of wood for its nest, small animals, or other forms of prey. 

On November 4th, 2015, a photographer in Georgia was able to photograph a female bald eagle carrying an extremely large branch that turned out to weigh around 12 pounds, almost heavier than its own body weight. 

If you’ve encountered a bald eagle before, we’d love to hear all about your experience in the comments below! All questions regarding the bald eagle wingspan are also welcome.

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