Juvenile Bald Eagles: Everything You Need to Know!

Juvenile Bald Eagle perched on a branch

When you think of teenage birds, juvenile Bald Eagles may not be the first avian that comes to mind. After all, with their large size and long wingspan, you’d probably assume they were already fully grown.

At half a year old, Bald Eagles are called juveniles. They’ve shed their hatchling feathers and have their first full set of plumage; however, they don’t yet display a white-colored head. Also, while Juvenile Bald Eagles do bear yellow legs, their beaks and ceres are still blackish-gray in tint.

In this guide, everything you need to know about these juvenile eagles will be discussed in detail. This includes their migration tendencies, feeding habits, intimidating look-alikes, and more. Let’s begin!

What Does a Juvenile Bald Eagle Look Like?

Juvenile Bald Eagle with wings outstretched

Juvenile Bald Eagles, though already similar in size to adults, look quite different. For one thing, they sport a dark or reddish-brown plumage, which is typically dotted with white spots and mottling.

To add to that, note that their head and tail feathers remain dark, contrasting with the iconic white of mature eagles. Instead of bright yellow, these young raptors‘ bills and nares are tinged blackish, too.

On top of all that, a Bald Eagle juvenile’s eyes are initially dark brown in pigmentation — a color that gradually changes to a lemony yellow as the bird matures.

How Can You Tell If a Bald Eagle Is Young?

To tell if a Bald Eagle is young, you’ll want to look at its physical traits. From its feathers down to its beak, many things will reveal whether or not the avian you’re looking at is immature.

For instance, examine its feather coloration. Remember that a young Bald Eagle should display a distinctive dark brown plumage peppered with white spots.

In addition, during a field expedition in Alaska, a sight that stayed with me was a Bald Eagle perched atop a pine tree. I noticed that its head and tail feathers aren’t yet white-colored.

This observation suggests that the bird is still young and likely to remain so for several more years.

Overall, it’s worth noting that it takes about five years for eaglets to resemble adults fully.

What Age Is a Juvenile Bald Eagle?

Juvenile Bald Eagle starting to fly

Unlike newborns, juvenile Bald Eagles are between ½ and 2 ½ years old. After this period, they transition to being termed immature Bald Eagles, indicating further growth and development.

Pictures and Videos of Juvenile Bald Eagles

To truly grasp the beauty of juvenile Bald Eagles, one must see them in their natural habitat. Below, you’ll discover a curated selection of images and videos, offering a closer look at these majestic avians in their early stages.

First, here’s a picture of a juvenile Bald Eagle perched on a branch, gazing out into the distance:

Juvenile Bald Eagle gazing out into the distance

Meanwhile, to see how young Bald Eagles communicate when they’re hungry, watch this clip:

Baby bald eagle calls out for food

Up next, take a close look at these two Bald Eagle juveniles roosting on their respective branches:

Two Bald Eagle juveniles roosting on their respective branches

However, if you’re looking for an up-close glimpse at a juvenile Bald Eagle, this video is worth watching:

Meeting a Juvenile Bald Eagle Up Close

On a different note, below is a picture of a juvenile Bald Eagle soaring through the skies:

Juvenile Bald Eagle soaring through the skies

For a bonus feature, the following is an amazing clip of a Bald Eagle juvenile flying for the first time:

Young Eagle Flies for the First Time | BBC Earth

After soaking in the visuals, it’s clear that juvenile Bald Eagles are nothing short of fascinating. While they still have a lot of growing to do, they’re already awe-inspiring birds.

What Are the Differences Between Juvenile and Immature Bald Eagles?

Bald eagles, which are esteemed symbols of strength and freedom, undergo a captivating transformation as they age.

Yet, before you can grasp the wonder of this process, you must first understand what separates juvenile and immature Bald Eagles from each other. Here are some key differences between the two:

  • Overall plumage color: Juvenile Bald Eagles sport a predominantly dark brown plumage. Meanwhile, immature Bald Eagles, though still bearing a brown hue, start showing more white areas, especially on their tails and underparts.
  • Age: While the term “juvenile” refers to Bald Eagles that are between ½ and 2 ½ years old, “immature” designates those between 2 ½ and 3 ½ years of age.
  • Feather patterning: The feather patterning in Bald Eagle juveniles is uneven, with a mix of white and brown, giving them a somewhat speckled appearance. Contrarily, immature Bald Eagles are either dark with white markings or mainly white with brown fleckings.
  • Cere and beak shade: In juvenile Bald Eagles, the cere — the base of the beak — and the beak itself appear in a blackish-gray hue. Immature Bald Eagles, however, already exhibit yellow pigmentation on their ceres and bills.

In general, distinguishing between juvenile and immature Bald Eagles requires keen observation of their plumage, coloration, and other physical features.

What Are the Differences Between Golden Eagles and Juvenile Bald Eagles?

Golden Eagle up close

Golden Eagles and juvenile Bald Eagles often stir up confusion among bird enthusiasts and casual observers alike. Here are the differences between these two magnificent raptors:

  • Wings: Golden Eagles have well-defined white markings on the undersides of their wings, which contrast strongly with their dark brown feathers. Contrarily, juvenile Bald Eagles exhibit brown wings that have white spots scattered across them.
  • Legs: Golden Eagles have fully feathered legs, giving them a “booted” appearance. On the contrary, juvenile Bald Eagles display clean limbs, showcasing more of their skin and talons.
  • Habitat: Golden Eagles prefer mountainous or open terrains, like grasslands and deserts. Bald Eagle juveniles, still reliant on their caretakers for sustenance, tend to remain near their nesting sites, commonly located by large bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, and shores.
  • Feather coloration: Golden Eagles wear a uniform dark brown plumage with a golden sheen. Juvenile Bald Eagles, conversely, show a mix of dark, often reddish-brown feathers with white flecks and mottling.
  • Head size: Golden Eagles possess a smaller, more streamlined head that blends smoothly into their neck. Meanwhile, juvenile Bald Eagles tend to have slightly larger heads.
  • Bill and cere tint: Golden Eagles sport a bright yellow-colored bill and cere. In contrast, Bald Eagle juveniles maintain blackish-gray ones.

While Golden Eagles and juvenile Bald Eagles may seem similar at first glance, the differences in their physical characteristics are significant.

What Color Are Juvenile Bald Eagles?

Generally, juvenile Bald Eagles sport reddish-brown feathers, which are distinct from adults. Further, white markings adorn their underwing coverts and chests.

How Big Do Juvenile Bald Eagles Get?

Bald Eagle being trained

Juvenile Bald Eagles are substantial in size, with a length varying between 28 and 38 inches. Their wingspan is even more impressive, stretching from 66 to 96 inches across.

On the scales, though, these young birds weigh between 5 and 14 pounds, indicating that they’re growing quickly and are already at the peak of their physical development.

Are Juvenile Bald Eagles Larger Than Adults?

Juvenile Bald Eagles are bigger than adults due to their longer wing and tail feathers. This extra length gives them a size advantage.

As they grow older, however, their body size will eventually align with that of adult Bald Eagles.

How Long Does Bald Eagle Juvenile Plumage Last?

Juvenile Bald Eagle with majestic plumage

Bald Eagle juveniles develop their plumage 11 to 14 weeks post-hatching. This feathering lasts for 5 to 6 years out of their 20 to 30-year lifespan, with the young eagles molting annually throughout this period.

What Do Juvenile Bald Eagles Eat?

In their initial year, juvenile Bald Eagles belong to the list of birds that feed on carrion, especially dead fish, as they’re still mastering the art of hunting. Their reliance on such food sources ensures survival during their early days.

To be specific, it’s typically around six weeks after leaving the nest that these juvenile eagles begin honing their hunting skills, marking a pivotal growth point in their lives.

How Long Do Juvenile Bald Eagles Stay With Their Parents?

Juvenile Bald Eagles with their parent

Juvenile Bald Eagles leave their nest between 8 and 14 weeks after hatching. While they venture out, they still occasionally return to their parents.

Yet, note that by around five years old, these young Bald Eagles are typically independent and set out on their own.

Do Juvenile Bald Eagles Migrate?

Juvenile Bald Eagles generally roam instead of strictly migrating. In other words, unlike structured migrations, their movements are exploratory.

However, note that some juvenile eagles, 6 to 8 weeks post-fledging, might embark on their first northward departure, expanding their horizons as they grow.

Birds That Look Like Juvenile Bald Eagles

Golden Eagle looking like a Juvenile Bald Eagle

Juvenile Bald Eagles, with their brown bodies and white mottling, can be easily mistaken for several other bird species. After all, they still don’t have the adult’s white head and tail feathers.

If you’re out birdwatching and spot what you believe is a young Bald Eagle, consider the following birds that often get confused with it:

  • Black Kite: Black Kites exhibit a reddish-brown coloration similar to juvenile Bald Eagles. Their size and silhouette in flight might trick an untrained eye, even though they have a more forked tail and less bulky body compared to the eagles.
  • Golden Eagle: The likeness between Golden Eagles and young Bald Eagles is often noted, given their matching color and length. Yet, the Golden Eagle sports a more golden hue on its nape and has feathered legs, setting it apart.
  • Red-tailed Hawk: The Red-tailed Hawk is another raptor that can be confused with the Bald Eagle juvenile. With a broad wingspan, reddish-brown hue, and soaring flight, it’s a typical case of mistaken identity.
  • Western Osprey: The Western Osprey shares the brownish coloration with Bald Eagle juveniles. However, it’s good to note that their white underparts and distinctive mask-like face marks differentiate them from the young eagles.
  • Black Vulture: From a distance, the dark plumage of Black Vultures might resemble juvenile Bald Eagles. Yet, keep in mind that their smaller build and shorter tail, alongside a different flying pattern, are key indicators of their true identity.
  • Northern Harrier: Northern Harriers, with their brown feathers and size, could be confused with young Bald Eagles. However, their facial disc — resembling that of an owl — and white rump are features that set them apart.

As you can see, if you’re keen on discerning a juvenile Bald Eagle from other birds, paying attention to small details, such as size, tail feathers, wing shape, and flight behavior, can be very helpful.

Frequently Asked Questions

Juvenile Bald Eagle during flight

Do Juvenile Bald Eagles Have Black Beaks?

Yes, juvenile Bald Eagles have beaks that are blackish-gray. As they grow older, this dark shade reduces, making way for the signature yellow color seen in adults.

Do Juvenile Bald Eagles Have Red Tails?

No, juvenile Bald Eagles don’t have purely red tails. Instead, their tails display a reddish-brown hue, matching their overall plumage.

Occasionally, these tails will also feature white markings, which can appear as spots or stripes.

At What Age Do Bald Eagles Mate?

Bald Eagles typically reach sexual maturity and start mating between 4 and 6 years of age. This period marks their transition from juvenile to adult, readying them for breeding, hunting, and parenting duties.

Juvenile Bald Eagles are as powerful, intimidating, and fierce as their adult counterparts. So, have you ever seen one before? Let us know how it went in the comments below! You can also ask any questions you may have about these young birds.

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