Male vs. Female Bald Eagles: What’s the Difference?

Male vs. female bald eagles

If you are a rookie birdwatcher, you would probably want to know the difference between male and female Bald Eagles. After all, they are an incredible, majestic symbol of North America’s great outdoors.

Generally, you will notice that female Bald Eagles are taller, heavier, and have wider wings than male Bald Eagles. Females tend to exhibit more prolonged beaks and larger heads, too. Furthermore, their song is relatively deeper and quieter than males, which have higher-pitched calls.

Still, note that sexing birds is not as easy as it sounds. Luckily, this article is here to help. The male vs. female Bald Eagles’ size and build, behavior, and the exact calls they make will be explored below. Let’s get started!

Differences Between Male and Female Bald Eagles

Male and female bald eagle basking in the sun

While DNA testing is among the most reliable ways of specifying a bird’s sex, it is also the most expensive. With this in mind, it is only discernible to find other means of determining what gender a particular Bald Eagle is.

Typically, the distinction between a male and a female Bald Eagle can be pretty subtle. Yet, if you closely examine their physical, behavioral, vocal, and size differences, you’ll see that they’re indeed different from each other.

For your convenience, the following are some of the factors that can help you identify whether the Bald Eagle you are looking at is a male or female:

Physical Differences

Male and female Bald Eagles in flight

Although female and male Bald Eagles share the same general bodily characteristics, there are still a few things that can help you tell them apart through their physical appearance.

For example, female Bald Eagles tend to have slightly longer and deeper beaks than their male counterparts. This trait can be seen as early as when they are still in the nest, but it becomes more pronounced as they age.

Another way to tell a female from a male Bald Eagle is by observing its feet. Interestingly, you will notice that females typically flaunt longer talons and claws than male birds.

In addition, anticipate that female Eagles are much more plump than males. They are also taller overall, which makes them easier to spot from afar.

Looking at a male or female Bald Eagle’s tail and wings can help you distinguish it, too.

Most of the time, female Bald Eagles will display long tails while males’ tails are shorter. Further, females tend to have more prolonged wingspans than males, allowing them greater flight range over land.

When it comes to coloration, however, both genders share comparable hues. Therefore, unlike other birds, you can’t rely on plumage alone to determine whether a Bald Eagle is female or male.

Size Differences

As with other birds of prey, Bald Eagles are known for their reverse sexual size dimorphism. This means you should expect female Bald Eagles to be larger than males.

The following photo illustrates the difference in size between male and female Bald Eagles. The male Bald Eagle is on the right, while the female one is on the left:

Male and female bald eagle standing side by side

However, to be specific, it has been reported that a female Bald Eagle is approximately 25% larger than its male counterpart. This can be observed by comparing their body weight, wingspan, and height.

Beginning with stature, in most instances, female Bald Eagles exhibit a height range of about 35 to 38 inches. Meanwhile, males tend to stand at an average height of around 28 to 32 inches.

Regarding their wingspan differences, female Bald Efemaleagles have been noted to have wingspans that measure between 72 and 96 inches long.

On the other hand, male Bald Eagles tend to be shorter in this regard — generally measuring between 66 and 77 inches in length.

The same can be said in terms of their weight. Female Bald Eagles, typically heavier than their male partners, weigh an average of 10 to 15 pounds.

Conversely, male Eagles often have a slightly smaller body mass than females, weighing anywhere from 6 to 9 pounds — a significant difference.

Behavioral Differences

It may come as a surprise that aside from physical and size differences, other dissimilarities exist between female and male Bald Eagles. For one, females tend to be more aggressive than their male peers.

This may be because they are competing for mates and food, which makes them more likely to attack those that pose a threat to their survival.

A colleague of mine who has previously worked for a conservatory where she had the opportunity to study bald eagles in captivity has mentioned that female Bald Eagles were more dominant over their mates.

Upon studying this phenomenon, this can further result in a sort of alpha-female hierarchy among nesting pairs, especially since females of the species tend to be larger than males. What’s more, female Bald Eagles also tend to be less social than males.

So, while a male Bald Eagle is often seen hanging out with several other Eagles, most female Bald Eagles prefer to stay alone unless they are involved in essential activities, such as mating or raising young ones.

That said, keep in mind that during incubation duties, both males and females play an important role, as they share equal responsibility for caring for their offspring.

The following clip provides a clear example of how this occurs:

Pair of bald eagles exchange incubation duties at their snow-covered nest

With regard to hunting, given that Bald Eagles are one of those creatures that mate for life, both the male and female coordinately hunt together.

Vocal Differences

In most instances, you can tell whether a Bald Eagle is male or female by their vocal differences.

Specifically, female Bald Eagles usually have a lower-pitched call than their male companions. They will also be heard calling more frequently during the mating season.

A female Bald Eagle’s call is often described as a soft and subtle whistling, making it sound more like a small bird than a large bird of prey.

In contrast, male Bald Eagles tend to maintain a more complex call, which can be distinguished by the higher and faster frequency of each syllable. This makes it easier for you to differentiate between them.

Still, it should be noted that the calls of both males and females will sometimes be indiscernible by just listening, especially for inexperienced observers.

In this case, getting assistance or investing in special equipment is recommended for those who want to learn how to identify these birds’ genders easily.

Frequently Asked Questions

Male and female bald eagle perched on a branch

Do Female Bald Eagles Heads Turn White?

Yes, the heads of female Bald Eagles turn white. Having said that, bear in mind that this sudden color change happens to male Bald Eagles as well.

In fact, once a male or female Bald Eagle reaches five years of age, their head feathers will begin to lose their pigment and turn white. Note, though, that it may take up to eight years for this change to take place for some.

The reason behind this sudden change is still unclear, but it seems to be linked to hormonal changes in both birds as they approach their adult years. Nevertheless, when you see it yourself, you will agree it is impressive.

Are Female Bald Eagles More Aggressive Than Males?

According to most studies, female Bald Eagles are more aggressive than their male counterparts. This is because they need to protect their nests, food, and young from other predators.

Females also have more pointed beaks, which means they can inflict more damage on prey than males. In addition, a female Bald Eagle is more likely to attack if it feels threatened.

Nonetheless, you may be surprised to learn that female Bald Eagles are less likely to strike humans than males, as they tend to focus their aggression on other birds of prey, such as Hawks, Owls, Kites, and Vultures.

Are Female Eagles Stronger Than Males?

Given the fact that female Eagles are larger and stockier than males, it should come as no shock that they are stronger. They can carry more weight on their back and wings, giving them an edge when hunting prey.

Aside from that, it helps that female Bald Eagles exhibit longer talons and claws than males. This allows them to reach their food more easily, increasing their chances of survival.

Yet, do not misjudge male Eagles’ strength either — they make up for their smaller size by possessing a greater ability to fly at high speeds. This adds to their overall power and allows them to stay aloft longer than females can.

Why Are Female Eagles Larger Than Males?

Since Bald Eagles are categorized as reverse sexual size dimorphic, the females of their species tend to be bigger than the males. This is because the female Eagle needs to be larger to carry out its reproductive duties.

Additionally, this trait gives them an advantage over other creatures in their environment. Their large size makes them formidable predators, which helps them to defend themselves during the incubation season.

Other birds known for being reverse sexual size dimorphic include Vultures, Falcons, Hawks, Sandpipers, Jacanas, Hummingbirds, Cuckoos, Phalaropes, Owls, and Manakins.

Do Male and Female Eagles Mate for Life?

Yes, male and female Bald Eagles do mate for life. Always keep in mind that all types of Eagles are monogamous, which means that they pair up with one bird for their entire lives. The pair stays bonded until one member dies.

However, the fact that Bald Eagles typically have a life expectancy of 20 to 30 years makes it more likely that you’ll see them mating for years. This is truly a unique aspect of this majestic bird’s lifestyle.

That said, it should be noted that a male or female Bald Eagle may still fly off and mate with another partner. Reasons may vary, but failing to raise healthy chicks could be an underlying factor behind these splits.

Do Both Male and Female Bald Eagles Sit on the Eggs?

Interestingly, both male and female Bald Eagles sit on the eggs. This is something that has been observed by many specialists who have watched Bald Eagles in their natural habitats.

As a matter of fact, it is not just egg-sitting that both male and female Bald Eagles do; they also share other incubation duties and take care of the young ones inside the nest.

This makes sense since Bald Eagles mate for life. From building their nest to raising their offspring, both males and females are predicted to contribute equally to the success of the entire process.

All in all, there are four factors that you can consider when determining whether the Bald Eagle you are observing is male or female — physical characteristics, size, behavior, and vocalizations.

If you have further questions about male and female Bald Eagles, leave them in the comment section below!

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