What Does A Bald Eagle Look Like?

November 2, 2017
1 min read

A bald eagle has an unmistakable brown body, an elongated hooked bill and a characteristic snowy head. Its head and tail are white, while the color of its plumage is dark brown. However, its plumage’s shade is highly variable depending upon the age and molting of the bird. It has bright-yellow tinted bill, irises, cere (base of the bill), legs and feet. There are no feathers on its legs while its powerful toes have large black talons. The front toes paralyze the prey while the hind toe rips the flesh into pieces. During its flight, the bird holds its wings virtually flat and do not quite often flutter them.

The colors in both males and females are the same. Despite that, the male bald eagles are 25 percent smaller than the females thereby exhibiting sexual dimorphism.

What does a young bald eagle look like?

The plumage of a young bald eagle is mottled dark brown with white strips. These white blotches, however, disappear after 4 to 5 years, when the raptor becomes sexually mature. One of the distinguishing characteristics of a young bald eagle is its black-colored bill. Unlike an adult bald eagle’s bill which is fully yellow, the bill of a young eaglet has only its tips yellow-colored while the rest of the bill is blackish gray. The iris of the juvenile bird is dark brown. Likewise, the color of its head is also dark brown but it gets whiter as the bird molts its feathers. The tail of a juvenile bird has a brown-black band and it becomes white with age.

What does a baby bald eagle look like?

USFWS file photo

At hatching, a baby bald eagle has watery body but gets dried up fast. It has a pale-gray down. However, its throat has a distinctive white down. A hatchling has light gray cere but it turns to pale-yellow after 4 to 8 days; light-olive within the next 4 days and then from light gray to darker gray in time. The legs and feet of a hatchling are pink but they are turned to yellow-shaded after 9 to 12 days. At the time of hatching, the chick has brown eyes and pink-shaded skin. At first, the talons are gray but grows darker with age.


Buehler, David A. 2000. Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.506

“Bald Eagles”. Channel Islands – National Park Service


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