Why Do Eagles Build Their Nests High? (Explained)

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

Eagles build their nests up very high and close to water because they provide the basic things they need: places to drink, fish, rest, and rear young, as well as perches from which they can hunt and rest away from humans’ intrusion.

It also makes the nest more accessible while also giving a better view of potential attackers.

A lot of the trees that eagles choose for nesting are elderly and may be nearing the end of their useful lives.

In rare cases, the nest tree dies, but the eagles continue to use their nest even after it has died, sometimes until the tree or nest is wrecked. 

Why do eagles build their nest high?

Why Do Eagles Build Their Nests High

Eagles make nests at high elevations for three main reasons.

For Protection: The eagle prefers to fly at altitudes where it can see everything.

Most of them are aware of this, making it difficult for humans and other animals to notice the eagle.

However, reptiles like lizards and snakes can easily reach an eagle’s eggs if the nest is built at a low elevation. This is something that can be found on virtually any bird.

Easy accessibility: As for the second point, eagles are known for their prowess in the air. It’s not exactly easy to fly up and down with their body weight. 

As a result, they build their nests at high altitudes in order to easily reach and keep an eye on their eggs and chicks.

Predators: Eagles face numerous threats in the food chain as well as in the air.

There are crows around, and they enjoy eating other bird’s eggs, making it easy for them to take or kill chicks at low elevation, reducing the eagle population

All eagle species use these strategies. They are swift until their stamina runs out. To conserve both their own energy and that of their chicks, eagles always build their nests at high altitudes.

Related: Here is an article I wrote on eagles breaking their beaks

How high do eagles build their nests?

Nests can range in height from 50 to 125 feet, with the average being around 50 feet. Eagles make some of the most massive bird nests—up to 6 feet in diameter and 2 to 4 feet high, with various shapes depending on the supporting tree—from circular to conical and even flat. 

Both the male and female search for the building materials for the nest, but the female makes the arrangement.

First, she weaved the sticks together, and then grass, moss, or corn stalks were used to fill in the gaps.

Next, lichen or other fine woody stuff lines the nest’s interior before downy feathers and occasionally twigs of greenery are added.

Near the seaside, ground nests are constructed from whatever readily available materials, such as kelp and driftwood.

These nests can be built in as little as three months, and they can be utilized (and expanded upon) for several years.

Where do eagles build their nest?

Eagles build their nest in the tallest trees available that have accessible branches.

The nest is located towards the tree’s trunk, below the crown, and is held aloft by enormous forked branches.

Bald eagles usually seek a forested region near water to build their nests.

Bald eagles with substantial eagle populations will nest in developed areas even though they usually shun human activity. 

This species prefers trees that are at least 50 years old or older. They also nest in cliffs and rock outcroppings.

To build their massive nests, bald eagles frequently choose the highest trees in forested areas with thick branches that hold up to 1,000 pounds of egg weight per square foot of nest space.

Their nest always has at least one perch with the view of the water, where they forage.

When an eagle builds its nest, it uses a lot of huge sticks, and the interior is lined with anything from moss to grass to plant stalks to lichens to seaweed.

Bald eagles often rip branches from trees while foraging for food.

Foraging for sticks close to the nest is an instinct for these birds, but they may even carry some up to a mile in their beaks.

They start their building in the tree’s uppermost quarter, below the crown and close to the trunk, where the thick and sturdy branches can sustain the large nest.

They weave the sticks together and fill in the gaps with a variety of plant fibers such as grasses, mosses, cornstalks, and Spanish moss.

Golden eagles commonly build their nests on cliffs or trees in an open or semi-open environment.

They stay away from densely populated and forested areas but have been seen making their nests on man-made buildings like observation towers and windmills, among others.

Golden eagles love undeveloped areas with open or semi-open views.

There may be an exposure factor when choosing a nest site on cliffs since this will protect the nest and young eagles from bad weather.

Also check out this article I wrote on eagles molting

Do juvenile eagles build nests?

Juvenile eagles do not build a nest.

These birds start building their nest one to three months before mating and are an essential aspect of the breeding process for many species of birds. When an eagle reaches sexual maturity, it is ready to reproduce.

What happens if an eagle builds a nest on your property?

A service statute safeguards eagle nests. It’s better not to disturb a nest if it’s on your property.

The Service gives suggestions on how to minimize the negative impact on bald eagle breeding populations.

The distance between the intended activity and the nest, as well as the time of year when eagles are most active, all go into these suggestions.

The Eagle Act holds you accountable if the eagle abandons the nest, the nest fails, or the nestlings perish.

For a first offense (a criminal misdemeanor), the penalty is up to one year and a $100,000 fine; for a second offense, the penalty is up to two years in prison and a $250,000 (Criminal felony). 

How do eagles teach their babies to fly

In order to keep themselves safe, young birds stay close to their nests and practice flying by copying their parents until they are strong enough to fly on their own.

Then, young eagles pick up their skills by mimicking the more experienced adults.

First flights are common in infants as young as 9 or 10 weeks and are preceded by a lot of flapping and strenuous exercise. 

The male chick may hatch first when both parents are in the same nest at the same time.

Adult eagles have been known to compel baby eagles to fly. As soon as the chicks are old enough to leave the nest, they glide to a nearby tree or stump, where the adults feed them until they can fly on their own. 

The eaglets find it challenging to land on tree limbs.

However, if they touch down on the ground, they will require free space in order to spread their wings and take flight.

In the meantime, eaglets are learning to land and fly independently, but they still have to rely on their parents for food.

The adults bring food to the eaglets where it is perched. During the first several weeks after fledging, eaglets will remain near the nest and nest tree.

Eaglets will soar and float over the water within a month of fledging.

Do eagles leave their eggs unattended?

Eagles do not leave their eggs unattended. Male and female brood patches are present, although the female’s brood patch is significantly more developed.

Eagles that are incubating will remain in the nest for long periods.

The eggs have to be at 105 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, so the adults take turns incubating.

Nest exchanges can happen as quickly as an hour after they are initiated, but they are often spaced out over some time.

When a new adult arrives, it often brings a branch or other new vegetation to the nest. The incubating adult carefully places over the eggs before taking off while the other rakes nesting material against its body.

Both adults will be in the nest, or the nesting adult leaves the egg unattended for a few minutes before the other adult returns to resume incubation.

How long does an eagle stay in the nest?

The hatching process takes 35 days. Then, a further 10-12 weeks pass until the chicks fly away (fly from the nest.)

Depending on food availability and waterways for fishing, some eagles may choose to remain in their breeding and nesting grounds all year long.

Others go to great lengths to find a warm location to stay throughout the upcoming winter.

Do both Eagle parents sleep in the nest?

Adults sleep on the nest or a branch in the nest or another adjacent tree during the breeding season.

The feet of eagles feature a unique mechanism that allows them to lock their feet in a fixed posture as they sleep.

To put it another way, it’s like having a horse sleep on its hind legs.


Eagles build their nest so high because the landscape provides the essential thing they need: access to food, unrestricted view, protection from other animals that can eat their eggs.

Both males and females work together to build the nest strong enough to raise their eaglets.

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About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


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