McGwire – Bald Eagle
Hatched: Approximately 1997
McGwire was found in Kearney, Nebraska 8/13/97. When he was brought to the Betsy Hancock Raptor Recovery Center in Elmwood, NE he was emaciated, aggressive toward humans, and appeared to have an eye problem of unknown origin. After almost a year at the Nebraska Raptor Center he was sent to the World Bird Sanctuary for evaluation. It was determined that he was unreleasable due to his limited sight and the fact that he had become imprinted on humans because of the intense medical treatment he had required.
He was christened McGwire because he was received at World Bird Sanctuary in 1998, the year Mark McGwire hit his 70 home runs. When he first became an educational bird, McGwire was easily spooked and tended to “bait” when approached by any number of strange objects (possibly due to his low vision). After hundreds of hours of patient training, he has learned to trust and rarely baits anymore. He has become a staff favorite due to his calm disposition and curious nature.
Species: Bald Eagle
Scientific Name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Description: Adult Bald Eagles have white heads and tails with dark brown bodies and wings. Their legs and bills are bright yellow. Juveniles are mostly dark brown and the white head and tail are obtained at 4 to 5 years of age. The term “bald” refers to the Old English word “balde” which means white.
Sex: Males and females are similar in color but females are larger in size.
Age: Bald eagles have lived up to 50 years in captivity. Their life expectancy in the wild is 15 to 25 years.
Weight: 8-15 lbs.
Habitat: In Missouri, throughout the nesting season, bald eagles are rather solitary. During winter migration, however, they congregate near open water in tall trees for spotting prey and night roosts for sheltering.
Status: Once endangered by hunting and pesticides, Bald Eagles have flourished under protection.
Range: Bald Eagles are found in Canada and the United States.
Behavior: Bald Eagles are powerful fliers—soaring, gliding, and flapping over long distances. In one of several spectacular courtship displays, a male and female fly high into the sky, lock talons, and cartwheel downward together, breaking off at the last instant to avoid crashing to earth. Bald Eagles build some of the largest bird nests — typically 5 to 6 feet in diameter and 2 to 4 feet tall and can take up to 3 months to build.
Diet: Fish of many kinds constitute the centerpiece of the Bald Eagle diet (common examples include salmon, herring, shad, and catfish), but these birds eat a wide variety of foods depending on what’s available like carrion, waterfowl and mammals. Rather than do their own fishing, Bald Eagles often go after other creatures’ catches. A Bald Eagle will harass a hunting Osprey until the smaller raptor drops its prey in midair, where the eagle swoops it up.
Vocalization: The Bald Eagle emits surprisingly weak-sounding calls—usually a series of high-pitched whistling or piping notes.
- The Bald Eagle has been the national symbol of the United States since 1782 and was chosen over Benjamin Franklin’s suggestion of the wild turkey
- Each fall, thousands of these great birds migrate south from nesting ranges in Canada and the Great Lakes states to feed on fish on the Mississippi River in this Bi-State area of Missouri and Illinois.