All eagles are renowned for their excellent eyesight, and the bald eagle is no exception. They have two foveae or centers of focus, that allow the birds to see both forward and to the side at the same time. Bald eagles are capable of seeing fish in the water from several hundred feet above, while soaring, gliding or in flapping flight. This is quite an extraordinary feat, since most fish are counter-shaded, meaning they are darker on top and thus harder to see from above. Fishermen can confirm how difficult it is to see a fish just beneath the surface of the water from only a short distance away.
Young bald eagles have been known to make mistakes, such as attacking objects like plastic bottles floating on or just below the surface of the water. Bald eagles will locate and catch dead fish much more rapidly and efficiently than live fish, because dead fish float with their light underside up, making them easier to see.
Eagles have eyelids that close during sleep. For blinking, they also have an inner eyelid called a nictitating membrane. Every three or four seconds, the nictitating membrane slides across the eye from front to back, wiping dirt and dust from the cornea. Because the membrane is translucent, the eagle can see even while it is over the eye.