The Bald Eagle: A fitting nation symbol

By Dave Hanks

Eagles are extremely hard to get near. This is due to their tremendous eyesight. Luck has been involved in getting the eagle pictures that we have. This eagle is on the Klamath Refuge of northern California. We had been in a bird blind along a lake shore (which required a fee) and hadn’t had much success. Back in our truck, driving slowly along a dike, we spotted this eagle on top of a pole. We actually stalked him in our truck – pulling up a few feet at a time, snapping a photo, and moving closer each time. Another good eagle experience was at Farmington Bay, Utah. A friend had called me to report many eagles feeding there in early winter. We rushed down to find them eating the Carp which were lolling in the shallows.

The adult Bald Eagle is 31” to 37” long, with a white head and tail. Its beak and talons are yellow. They take 4-5 years to get their adult plumage. Immature eagles are dark and lack the white and yellow colorations. They are often mistaken for Golden Eagles. Females and young eagles are larger than the adult male. Eagles can be differentiated from Turkey Vultures while in flight. They soar with their wings flat instead of in a V configuration.

Bald Eagles nest in tall trees or on cliffs. The nest is close to water, as their major food source is fish. These they catch by swooping down and snatching the fish from the surface of the water. They take more of the fish that have downward facing eyes – these are less apt to see a bird overhead. They will also take ducks and anything else they can catch. A good part of each day is spent in a tall tree surveying the surrounding area, with their extraordinary power of vision, for possible food sources.

There are good populations in Alaska but not the lower 48. DDT almost wiped them out down here. However, they are recovering and I see more of them each year and that is gratifying!

(Up high, surveying the layout)