South Carolina's Bald Eagles

Adult Bald Eagle

Adult bald eagles have a distinctive white head and tail, dark brown body with a bright yellow bill and feet with unfeathered lower legs. Eyes are large and yellow. Juveniles have a dark head, tail and body with dark eyes and bill and do not obtain adult plumage until they are 5 years old. As the juvenile ages, its body plumage becomes mottled with white before obtaining full adult plumage.

Bald eagles in South Carolina are smaller than their northern counterparts with a mean wingspan of 188 cm (6 feet 2 inches) and a mean weight of 3.27 kg (7.14 pounds). Eagles from the northern portion of their range can be twice as heavy. Eagle chicks are full grown when they leave the nest at 12 weeks and frequently weigh more than adults.

The family Accipitridae contains 59 species of eagles worldwide. Sea and fish eagles account for 11 species comprising three genera, of which eight are in the genus Haliaeetus. The bald eagle is the only species of sea eagle to regularly occur on the North American continent. Two subspecies of leucocephalus are described based on size and weight. These are of questionable merit because of a continuous gradient in size from north to south throughout the range.