You Know That Call of the Bald Eagle You Hear on TV? That's Not a Bald Eagle

Cropped version of hawk, for tease only.
red-tailed hawk fledgling
A young red-tailed hawk calls from its perch, with a much more impressive voice than that of its cousin, the bald eagle. Teri Franzen/MNN Flickr Group

You may think you're familiar with the high, shrill scream of the bald eagle. After all, you've watched television and movies. You've seen them sweep across the screen while making that mighty call. Even if you live nowhere near bald eagles, you may hear what you think is their call while out on the hiking trail, in your backyard, or even in an urban park. In fact, if you live nowhere near bald eagles you're more likely to mistake the sound you hear for their call, since you never get to hear their real call.

You see, whenever you watch a gorgeous bald eagle soar across the television screen and you hear its familiar call, what you're really hearing is the call of the red-tailed hawk.

Yep, the much smaller and more ubiquitous red-tailed hawk has a mightier voice than its larger cousin, the bald eagle. For that reason, Hollywood has dubbed over the call of the bald eagle with that of the red-tailed hawk to toughen up the symbol of America.

Here's the sound bald eagles really make when talking to each other:

And here's the call of the red-tailed hawk that likely sounds much more familiar to you:

So, next time you watch a bald eagle on the screen and get a little chill from that high, strong scream, you can thank your neighboring red-tailed hawk for providing it.