2 Types of Eagles in Illinois

Types of Eagles in Illinois
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels

Illinois is home to two species of eagles, the Bald Eagle and the Golden Eagle.

These types of eagles in Illinois are known for their impressive size, strength, and hunting skills, and they play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of ecosystems in Illinois.

The Bald Eagle, once endangered, has made a significant recovery and is now a common sight in the state, while the Golden Eagle remains a relatively rare but impressive sight. 

In this article on types of eagles in Illinois, we will take a closer look at the physical characteristics, habitats, hunting habits, reproduction, and conservation and protection efforts of these magnificent birds.

By understanding the unique features and needs of each species, we can work to protect and conserve these magnificent birds and the vital role they play in the natural world.

1. Bald Eagle

Bald Eagles

The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is one of the types of eagles in Illinois.

It is known for its distinctive appearance, with a white head and tail, a yellow bill, and a dark brown body.

The Bald Eagle is the national bird and symbol of the United States and is considered a symbol of freedom and power.


Illinois is an important habitat for Bald Eagles because it provides the necessary resources, such as large bodies of water, for these birds to hunt and nest.

The Great Lakes, the Mississippi River, and the Illinois River are important habitats for Bald Eagles in Illinois. 

These large bodies of water provide an abundant food source, such as fish, waterfowl, and small mammals, for the eagles to feed on.

Additionally, Illinois offers suitable nesting sites for Bald Eagles, including large trees and cliffs near water.

With these resources, Illinois provides crucial habitat for the recovery and continued success of the Bald Eagle population in the state.

Physical Characteristics

The Bald Eagle is a large bird of prey with a wingspan of up to 7 feet and a body length of up to 3 feet.

They have a distinctive appearance: a white head and tail, a yellow bill, and a dark brown body.

The females are larger than the males and can weigh up to 14 pounds. 

Their legs and feet are also yellow, and their eyes are sharp and piercing, allowing them to have excellent vision for hunting.

Bald Eagles have a hooked beak, ideal for tearing apart prey, and strong talons for holding onto their prey. 


Bald Eagles in Illinois are opportunistic predators and feed on prey, including fish, waterfowl, small mammals, and carrion.

They are known to be excellent hunters and can often be seen hovering over the water or perched on a tree limb, waiting to swoop down and grab their next meal. 

They use their sharp talons and hooked beaks to grasp and tear apart their prey.

In Illinois, Bald Eagles feed primarily on fish, such as carp and catfish, abundant in the state’s large bodies of water. 

When available, they will also feed on waterfowl and small mammals, such as muskrats and squirrels.

During the winter, when fish are scarce, Bald Eagles will also feed on carrion, such as dead fish and waterfowl, to survive.


Bald Eagles in Illinois generally mate for life and build large nests made of sticks and other materials near their preferred water sources.

The female typically lays one to three eggs per year, which males and females incubate for approximately 35 days.

Once the eggs hatch, both parents care for the young, bringing them food and keeping them warm until they are old enough to leave the nest.

The life cycle of Bald Eagles in Illinois is typical of Bald Eagles found throughout North America.

Juvenile Bald Eagles have a mottled brown appearance, gradually changing to an adult’s white head and tail and a dark brown body.

This transformation occurs gradually over several years and is complete by the time the Bald Eagle reaches four or five years of age.

Most of these types of eagles in Illinois can live for up to 20 years in the wild, although many do not survive to reach their maximum lifespan.

The primary threats to the Bald Eagle’s survival in Illinois are habitat destruction, exposure to toxic chemicals, and human disturbance during the nesting season.

Conservation efforts, such as the Illinois Bald Eagle Watching Program, have helped to protect the Bald Eagle population in Illinois and ensure its continued success.

2. Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle - Types of Hawks in Pennsylvania
by Jon David Nelson is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Golden Eagle is a large bird of prey found throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere.

It is known for its distinctive golden-brown plumage and impressive size, with a wingspan reaching up to 7 feet.

In terms of its significance as a habitat for these types of eagles in Illinois, the state offers important areas of suitable habitat for this species, including extensive forests and rugged terrain that provide the open space and perching sites that Golden Eagles prefer.

Physical Characteristics

The Golden Eagle is a large bird of prey with impressive physical characteristics that make it well-adapted to hunting and survival in its natural habitats.

Some of the most notable physical characteristics of the Golden Eagle include:

  1. Size: Golden Eagles are large birds with a wingspan reaching 7 feet. Adults typically weigh between 7 and 14 pounds.
  2. Plumage: Golden Eagles have distinctive golden-brown plumage on their back and wings, with a lighter, almost white head and tail. Juvenile Golden Eagles are often darker and more mottled, with less distinct markings.
  3. Talons: Golden Eagles have large, powerful talons that they use to grasp and hold onto their prey. These talons can be up to 2 inches long and are equipped with sharp, hooked claws.
  4. Beak: Golden Eagles have a large, hooked beak that they use to tear apart their prey and defend themselves against predators. The beak is also useful for plucking feathers from birds or other prey animals.
  5. Vision: These types of eagles in Illinois have excellent eyesight, with eyes adapted to detect movement and distinguish detail from great distances. This is an important adaptation for hunting and survival in the wild.


In Illinois, Golden Eagles are found in rural areas and natural habitats such as forests, grasslands, and agricultural fields.

These birds are well-suited to the habitats found in Illinois, and the state’s diverse landscape provides an important range of habitats for Golden Eagles to thrive.

Golden Eagles prefer habitats that offer open spaces for hunting, perching sites for observing their surroundings, and access to a reliable food source.

This includes large expanses of forests, prairies, and grasslands in Illinois, providing the open spaces and perching sites that Golden Eagles prefer.

Additionally, large, open agricultural fields in Illinois provide the prey base Golden Eagles need to survive, including rabbits, ground squirrels, and other small mammals.


Golden Eagles in Illinois primarily hunt small mammals such as rabbits, ground squirrels, and other small rodents.

They are skilled hunters that use their powerful talons and sharp beaks to capture their prey.

Golden Eagles hunt by diving down on their prey from a high altitude, and they can spot potential prey from great distances.

In Illinois, Golden Eagles typically hunt in open habitats such as grasslands, prairies, and agricultural fields where they can easily spot and capture their prey.

They are also known to hunt in forests and other wooded areas, but they are most successful in open habitats with a clear view of their surroundings.

These types of eagles in Illinois are hunters and will take advantage of any available food source, including carrion or dead animals.

However, their primary food source is live prey, and they are highly successful hunters capable of capturing even large and elusive prey.


These types of eagles in Illinois typically mate for life and establish a large territory where they will defend against other eagles and potential competitors.

Golden Eagles reach sexual maturity at 4 to 5 years of age, and they will begin breeding at this time.

The breeding season for the types of eagles in Illinois typically begins in late winter or early spring, and they will build a large stick nest in a tree or on a cliff face.

The female will lay 1 to 4 eggs in the nest, and the male and female will take turns incubating the eggs for approximately 40 days.

After the eggs hatch, the young eagles will remain in the nest for another 10 to 12 weeks, during which time they will be fed and cared for by their parents.

During this time, the young eagles will grow rapidly and will begin to develop their hunting skills.

Golden Eagles in Illinois have a relatively long lifespan and can live for up to 30 years in the wild.

Throughout their life, they will continue to hunt, mate, and raise young, and they will play an important role in maintaining the balance of their ecosystem.


Here we have it, the types of eagles in Illinois. You know that the eagles found in Illinois are famous for being large, strong, and skilled hunters.

They have an important job of keeping the ecosystems in Illinois balanced. 

It is important to know that the Bald Eagle, which was once in danger of extinction, has made a remarkable comeback and is now frequently seen in the state.

On the other hand, the Golden Eagle is still uncommon but leaves a lasting impression when spotted.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
You May Also Like