2 Types of Eagles Found in North Carolina! (ID Guide)

What types of eagles can you find in North Carolina?

common types of eagles in north carolina

Whenever they appear, I make sure to stop and watch these incredible birds of prey. I’m always amazed at their beauty, large size, and astonishing ability to soar at extreme heights! And I’m not alone, as eagles have a special place in many people’s hearts and minds. These majestic birds symbolize many things, such as freedom, courage, honesty, inspiration, victory, and pride.

Unlike other raptors, there are not many eagle species that reside in North Carolina. In fact, there are only a few species that can be observed on the entire continent.

Below are the TWO eagles that live in North Carolina!

Make sure to pay attention to the range maps to see which eagles live near you! For each species, I have included a few photographs, along with their most common sounds, to help you identify any birds you are lucky enough to observe.

#1. Bald Eagle

  • Haliaeetus leucocephalus

common eagles in north carolina


The Bald Eagle is one of the most recognizable birds in the world!


But did you know that the “Bald” portion of their name has nothing to do with not having feathers on their head? As you can clearly see, these eagles have white feathers covering their entire face with no bald spots anywhere. Their name actually stems from an Old English word “piebald,” which means “white patch” and refers to their bright white heads.


commons eagles in north carolina


While almost everyone knows what a full-grown Bald Eagle looks like, trying to correctly identify juvenile birds is tricky. These eagles don’t get their characteristic white head and dark brown body until they are FIVE YEARS OLD. Until then, these birds have all sorts of different plumages and streaky browns and whites on their bodies. Even their beak changes color! It takes A LOT of practice and experience to identify young Bald Eagles properly!


Bald Eagles are found across North Carolina!


After almost going extinct in the mid 20th century due to DDT poisoning, these raptors are a true success story. They are most commonly seen around bodies of water.

Bald Eagle Range Map


The reason that Bald Eagles are found around water is that they mostly eat fish! Look for them around marshes, lakes, coasts, and rivers. The BEST areas are forests near large bodies of water that provide good fishing AND tall trees for nesting sites.


Did you know that Bald Eagles build the largest nests in the world?


Their nests start “small,” but eagles add new layers each year. The biggest one EVER found was 10 feet wide (3 meters) and 20 feet tall (6 meters) and weighed in at 3 tons! Bald Eagles would keep adding to their nests each year, but what happens is that the structures get so heavy they eventually fall out of the tree, and the birds have to start over.

Press PLAY above to hear a Bald Eagle!


The Bald Eagle probably doesn’t sound like what you think. If you imagine an intimidating eagle call, then you would be wrong. I think they sound more like a gull, with trills and little whistles. In fact, movie directors are so unimpressed with the sounds a Bald Eagle makes, it’s common for them to use the call of a Red-tailed Hawk instead for dramatic effect!


With unmatched eyesight, it is not at all surprising that Bald Eagles hunt from as high as 10,000 feet (3 km) in the air. Their vision is about eight times better than humans. More importantly, these eagles can see into the ultraviolet portion of the spectrum. This adaptation is helpful because it allows them to see past the reflections on the water’s surface and find fish that would otherwise be invisible in the glare.


Length: 28-40 inches / 70-102 cm

Weight: 6.5-15 lbs / 3-7 kg

Wingspan: 71-91 inches / 1.8-2.3 meters


#2. Golden Eagle

  • Aquila chrysaetos

species of eagles in north carolina

Golden Eagles are incredibly fast and agile, which makes them expert hunters. Where Bald Eagles mostly eat fish, these eagles almost always eat mammals. Their favorite prey includes rabbits, hares, ground squirrels, marmots, and prairie dogs. But these raptors have been known to hunt and kill animals as large as small deer, seals, mountain goats, coyotes, and badgers!


They have even been known to snatch a bear cub for dinner. Talk about bravery (or stupidity?)! 🙂


Golden Eagles are dark brown with gold feathers on the backs of their necks, which is how they got their name. Juvenile birds have white patches on their wings and tails. Immature Bald Eagles and adult Golden Eagles look similar and can be easily confused.

golden eagle vs bald eagle juvenile - common eagles in north carolina


The distinguishing feature between these two birds is that the Bald Eagle doesn’t mind showing a little leg, whereas the Golden Eagle has feathers all the way down to the top of their feet.


These powerful raptors typically mate for life. To impress a female, male birds will pick up a stick or a rock and fly up high, only to drop it. Then the eagle will enter a dive to catch the object again before it hits the ground! Once a pair is together, it’s common for them to hunt cooperatively, where one individual ambushes the prey and drives it towards the second bird to make the kill.


Golden Eagles are known to like cliffs to build their nests on, but also have no problem using trees, observation towers, or nesting platforms. These raptors have even been known to nest on the ground! The most important feature these birds look for when it comes to building a nest is it needs to have a good view of its surroundings.

Golden Eagle Range Map

golden eagle range map


Golden Eagles are not commonly seen in North Carolina!


These birds prefer vast open areas such as landscapes that include cliffs, mountains, or hills. You can also spot these birds in grasslands, farmlands, shrublands, arctic tundra, and coniferous woodlands.



These eagles are not extremely noisy, and their calls sound like whistles that are weak and high. Just like Bald Eagles, for such a powerful raptor, you would think Golden Eagles would have a much more intimidating sound!


Length: 26-40 inches / 66-100 cm

Weight: 6.5-16 lbs / 3-7 kg

Wingspan: 71-91 inches / 1.8-2.3 meters


Do you need help identifying eagles?


Here are a few books and resources you can purchase that will assist! (Links below take you to Amazon)


Which of these eagles have you seen before in North Carolina?


Leave a comment below!


To learn more about other raptors near you, check out these guides!


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  1. On State Road 28, North of Franklin, NC, after crossing over the Little Tennessee River, I saw a bald eagle high in a dead tree looking for dinner in the river. On my way back into town the eagle was gone, but there was a great horned owl sitting in the vacated spot!

    We have several bird feeders, and a fairly large squirrel population, well we DID have a lot of squirrels! Almost all of them are gone now, and I noticed that the songbirds no longer frequented the feeders as often. There is, however, a large nest directly over our cabin that was not there before. It has a great view of the bird feeders and most of the squirrel nests. Three days ago I spotted a Golden Eagle sitting in a tree outside of my sun porch window. Guess that explains the drop in bird and squirrel population? I hope it will leave soon, and I hope it did not eat my wrens! I live in Cowee Valley off of Hwy. 28, in Franklin, NC.

  2. We live on the Tuckaseegee river in the mountains of NC. We have seen a bald eagle several times. A friend photographed the eagle down river a few miles. Then a few months ago we thought we saw a golden eagle. Lol.
    But research here on your site makes us think it was a juvenile Bald eagle.

  3. My wife and I saw what we think was a golden eagle sitting on our back fence this morning. Searching the internet, we found that juvenile bald eagles are practically indistinguishable from golden so it could have been juvenile bald eagle. We have many bald eagles around Lake Norman.

  4. Saw a Golden Eagle sitting on a stump outside of Wilmington watching the world go by on the way. Very impressive bird!

  5. Saw a golden eagle today in Tyro NC in a field on Hwy 150 between Tyro and Reeds. He or she was bigger than a hawk and enjoying breakfast.

  6. Saw a young gold eagle on hwy 150 between Tyro and Reeds today. It was in a field enjoying breakfast. It had feathers on it’s legs and was bigger than a hawk.

  7. We saw 2 adult and 1 juvenile bald eagle in Mooresville, NC on northern tip of the Brawley Peninsula, Lake Norman on 7/9/22

  8. Golden eagle in my front yard in Huntersville just north of Charlotte (our house backs up to a nature preserve). It had caught a squirrel and was protecting it from other birds flying at it while eating it. We found the squirrels “insides” in our yard later. 🫣

  9. Just sighted a golden eagle here in northern Haywood County near Waterville Lake. He/she was very talkative.

  10. Definitely saw one flying over this morning. I’m in Dobson, not far from Mt Airy or “Mayberry “ in Surry County. My neighbor has told me on a couple occasions that he has seen one but this morning was the 1st time I have seen one around here!! Beautiful!!

  11. We were skipping rocks on the Johns River in Collettsville near Lenoir and definitely saw a bald eagle. Perhaps the rocks splashing in the water attracted it. It had a 4 ft wing span & the tell-tale golden beak. Gorgeous!

  12. I sure thought I saw one of these in Durham today, but it doesnt seem like thats normal. It was an eagle or hawk that I saw on the side of the highway and it was dark brown with brown black. ?