If you’re a male bald eagle, your chances of making it big in Hollywood can be summed up in three words – slim and none.
It’s a bit of movie minutiae many screen-goers probably don’t know; most bald eagles seen on the silver screen are females. The reason for this is that in eagles – as is the case with hawks and a number of other raptor species – the female is larger than the male. Thus, if Hollywood producers want to show an eagle that’s big, powerful, and majestic-looking, they’re going to choose the gender that’s the largest.
People can learn more about bald eagles of all sizes Jan. 20 and Jan. 21 at Springfield’s annual Eagle Days event. This free event will take place at the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Springfield Nature Center and at the Springfield/Greene County Park Board’s Lake Springfield Boathouse and Marina. On both days, in addition to hopefully catching views of wild eagles at Lake Springfield, visitors to the Nature Center will have opportunities to view a live captive eagle furnished by the Dickerson Park Zoo.
Precise weight and wing span differences of genders vary from one mating pair to the next, but as a general rule of thumb, the size of a female bald eagle is about one-third larger than that of a male. There are several theories about the purpose of this size differential – most of which focus on securing the survival of the next generation.
For starters, since the female eagle is the one whose role it is to keep first the eggs and then the hatchlings warm, it stands to reason that the gender with the largest body mass could accomplish this job the best.
It also makes sense that when the young eaglets are newly hatched and vulnerable, the gender with the largest body would be best able to intimidate and – if needed – fend off predators.
However, the male eagle’s smaller size doesn’t make him a lesser-important wimp. On the contrary, being smaller also has its advantages in the parenting set-up. The male eagle is the food-provider for his brood and a smaller, leaner body size is better suited for attacking and out-maneuvering prey.
Regardless of gender, the bald eagles we see in Missouri each winter are impressive. The bird’s large size, the striking contrast of its white head against its dark body and its fierce expression are some of the reasons that seeing this bird has always been a head-turning event for humans.
Some bald eagles can be found in Missouri throughout the year, but in winter, this relatively small resident population is swelled by eagles migrating here from the north. Frequently, more than 2,000 eagles are tallied during the state’s mid-winter eagle count, which is conducted by the Missouri Department of Conservation each January. The cold fronts, snow storms and other meteorological events that highlight winter weather in the northern areas of the continent are conditions that put eagles in motion in southerly flights towards warmer locations. Eagles often follow open water and, although it get cold here in Missouri, the birds will be able to find more open water in this region than in the still-colder north.
The times of this year’s Eagle Days event are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Jan. 20 and 12:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. on Jan. 21. Dickerson Park Zoo’s will be featured in program’s that will be conducted in the Nature Center’s auditorium. Eagle-oriented activities will also be held at the Nature Center. At the Springfield/Greene County Park Board’s Lake Springfield Boathouse and Marina, spotting scopes will be set up for chances to view eagles that winter at Lake Springfield each year.
For information about Eagle Days, call 417-888-4237 or visit https://mdc.mo.gov/eagledays . Information about bald eagles in Missouri can also be found at mdc.mo.gov.