Bald Eagle

Haliaeetus leucocephalus


This majestic bird is unique to North America. With the exception of Hawaii, bald eagles are found in every state in the U.S. and Canada. They became the national symbol in 1782, and have been a spiritual symbol for native people since long before that.

Cheyenne became an avian ambassador at Reptile Gardens in 2001, with the permission of the US Fish & Wildlife Service. She was found in the wild near Grand Island, Nebraska with a severely broken wing. She was rushed to a veterinarian specializing in raptor care. After several surgeries, part of the wing had to be amputated. As a result she is permanently flightless.  At the Gardens, she lives in comfort, and the experience of seeing her up close inspires many guests to appreciate her wild kin.

Big Birds!

  • Bald Eagles can have a wingspan of 6-7 feet (about 2 meters).
  • Their weight can range from 6-15 pounds (about 3-6.5kg), with the heaviest birds living in cooler places like Alaska.
  • They often return to the same nest and add more to it each year, leading to some very large structures.
  • One of the largest nests weighed 2 metric tons before the tree it was in collapsed!

Eagles close-up

The head: Keen observers will note that bald eagles aren’t bald at all. Their common name comes from the Old English “balde” meaning “white.” Their scientific name translates to “white-headed sea eagle.”

The face: The face of an eagle looks regal and – let’s be honest – kind of angry! This is due to a bone that juts out over the eye, called the supraorbital ridge. It might give them a stern appearance, but it can help shade the eye when the sun is bright so they can see better to hunt.

The feet: If you could get a good look at the bottom of a bald eagle’s foot, it would seem very rough. The skin is covered in tiny projection called spicules, very handy for grabbing slippery fish, their preferred prey. They’re not always picky, though. Bald eagles are notorious scavengers and are often seen dining on carcasses.

Conservation Status: Threatened

An Amazing Conservation Success Story

Bald Eagles would be gone forever if it weren’t for people who cared passionately about the environment. In the mid-to-late 1900s, eagles were already rare due to habitat loss, shooting, and trapping, when the widespread use of the pesticide DDT started causing reproductive problems. Extinction seemed imminent as the number of breeding pairs got dangerously low.

Image of a Reptile Gardens employee holding Cheyenne on her arm during a bird show.

Thanks to the actions of concerned citizens, DDT use was drastically restricted in 1972, the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, and recovery programs began in earnest. Bald Eagles made such a tremendous comeback that in June of 2007, they were removed completely from the endangered species list at the federal level.

Both North American and the Bald eagles are still protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Reptile Gardens is permitted through the US Fish & Wildlife Service in order to care for Cheyenne.

Be sure to visit Cheyenne at her habitat on your next visit to Reptile Gardens.  While you’re here, don’t miss our interactive, Bird Show.

Reptile Gardens is an experience you don’t want to miss! Just six miles south of Rapid City in the beautiful Black Hills, look for the giant glass dome at the bottom of Highway 16.



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Sky Dome

Step inside the Sky Dome to experience a warm tropical climate while exploring our indoor jungle filled with exotic and unique flora and fauna. 

Rattlesnake Gulch Funtier Town

Try your hand at gemstone sluicing, go on a 3D safari, or test your aim at the shooting gallery! Our very own old west ghost town has numerous photo opportunities and activities to keep the kids entertained.

Cheyenne's Habitat

Cheyenne the bald eagle has been a permanent resident of Reptile Gardens for 11 years with permission of the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Maniac's habitat

Maniac is our resident giant saltwater crocodile. At over 16 feet long and1,350pounds, he is one of the largest giant crocodiles in the western hemisphere. If you don't see him at his enclosure inside the SkyDome, make sure to check outside!

Prairie Dog Town

Get down to eye-level with these fuzzy little animals and see firsthand what life is like in a typical prairie dog town!

Methuselah's Playground

Methuselah was a giant Galapagos Tortoise weighing in at over 600 pounds, and a long time resident of Reptile Gardens. His memory lives on at this playground featuring a bronze statue of Methuselah himself. 

Snake Show stage

Get up-close-and-personal with our snake ambassadors in this family-friendly snake handling show.

Gator Show stage

Dozens of Alligators, Crocodiles, and Caimans and one keeper...what could go wrong? Separate fact from fiction in this educational, family-friendly show and get a chance to pet Fluffy, our baby gator!

Bird Show stage

Interact with birds from around the world at the Bird Show, where they love to show off their beauty and intelligence. 

Gift Shop

Carrying a wide variety of Reptile Gardens souvenirs as well as educational books for every age and a variety of stunning rocks, minerals, and fossils from all over the world.

Green Parrot Cafe

Hungry? Refuel with buffalo burgers, The Maniac burger, Black Mamba Shakes, Indian Tacos, and more!

Giant Tortoise

Don't miss this photo opportunity! Get up-close and personal with these friendly giants who love to have their neck scratched and are great with kids. 

Tortuga Falls

Take a stroll through this meditative garden, gaze into our turtle and koi pond, listen to the waterfalls, and don't miss Darwin the Kookaburra! 

Walking Garden

We're about more than just Reptiles! Our outdoor gardens are beauty to be seen as they change throughout the season and year after year. 

Living Wall

This vertical garden is a wall of color that grows and changes through the Summer season creating striking patterns and unique portraits as it grows. 

Pet A Python

At the end of every snake show, you will get the opportunity to pet a python and chat with our knowledgeable show presenters. Don't forget your camera!