Bald eagles are opportunistic feeders, but they subsist mainly on fish, catching them by swooping down and snatching them from the water with their talons.

Eagle watchers—and just about all of us in North America—are familiar with the well-documented athletic abilities of our national emblem, the bald eagle. You’ve seen countless films of them, noiselessly swooping down upon unsuspecting fish, swiping them up with strong, sharp talons and then soaring away for the land to indulge in a tasty meal.

However, as any nature traveler knows, sometimes things don’t go as planned.

We rarely picture our majestic bald eagles swimming. But according to eagle experts, they are very good at the sport. In fact, it’s not uncommon for an eagle to misjudge prey and latch into a fish too heavy or large to fly with. So, they go with the flow—so to speak—and give swimming to shore a shot.


The ideal bald eagle habitat is a body of water surrounded by tall trees that the birds can use for spotting prey. Water bodies that attract bald eagles include coastal estuaries, dams, lakes, lagoons, rivers and tidal marshes.

Such a decision is not without significant dangers, however. Eagles have drowned during encounters with fish or if they were unable to swim far enough to reach shore. Once an eagle is in the water, it cannot fly again until it’s out of the water—making the decision to swim an all or nothing proposition. And if the water is very cold, hypothermia could set in.

These facts make watching the following videos all that much more amazing. We did well to select the bald eagle as our national emblem: it seems they personify steely determination at its best.

Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,