A Morning with a Bald Eagle Family

It’s tough to beat spending time with a family of 4 bald eagles to start the day off right, and yesterday, that’s what Monty and I did.

The trail that we took along the Yukon River is high and there’s some exposure that certainly makes having a full pot of coffee in your belly seem like a good idea (much worse than what you see in this photo).
Yukon River trail
Don’t you wish that your home had a view like theirs? As I approached, the other adult gave us a warning dive close to us but then disappeared. With a wingspan of over 6 feet, the warning is one to take seriously, but the adult seen here showed no sign of nervousness so we continued our approach.
Bald eagle nest along the Yukon River
In the cool morning air, the juveniles were much more active than they’d been in the heat of the afternoon a few days ago.
Juvenile bald eagles in the Yukon
Very impressive babies!
Juvenile bald eagles in the Yukon
When I saw the other adult a few minutes later, I could see that, being larger, this is the female – though the colourization is the same in both sexes, females average about 25% larger than the males.
Adult female bald eagle along the Yukon River
The juveniles watched Monty and I quite a bit, but it seemed to be out of curiosity, not any sense of danger. I was watching very closely for any sign that our presence might be causing a problem.
Mom was also keeping a fairly close eye on Monty and I, but was comfortable enough with our presence to turn her back on us for fairly lengthy periods.
Adult female bald eagle along the Yukon River
Juvenile bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) typically start flying in August sometime, but my guess is that these two are in no hurry to leave, as this was the only practise I saw.
Juvenile bald eagles in the Yukon
Their projectile defecation helps keep the nest clean. A kill site a few hundred feet away has been marked that way by the adults.
Juvenile bald eagle defecation
Waving those big wings around is apparently tough work – it was funny see that one lay down on its side with its feet up after the activity.
Juvenile bald eagles in the Yukon
We spent about 20 minutes with the family, then headed back down the trail towards the car. Right above the trail, though, the male was watching us. He’d apparently been out hunting, as his breast feathers were coated in mud. There wasn’t any reasonable way to get around his perch without disturbing him, so we continued on the trail. When I got within about 20 feet, he flew off and landed in an aspen close to the nest.
Adult male bald eagle along the Yukon River


A Morning with a Bald Eagle Family — 6 Comments

  1. Those are some incredible pictures of the eagles! They are such beautiful birds and I often see them when I am up at Nopiming Provincial Park, although I have not managed to get a picture of one that would be worth keeping! Interesting reading about (and seeing) the projectile defecation (so glad my kids didn’t do that!)
    My brother is president and volunteer of a Wildlife Rehab centre here in Manitoba. He has had a few bald eagles at the centre and I cannot believe how large they are!
    What a real treat that must have been! The last picture is my favorite! Very handsome he is!

  2. Thanks, Jan. Your comment about your kids made me laugh – yes, that would have made my parenting tougher to deal with, too!! They are amazing creatures, and I’m always very aware of just how blessed I am to have this sort of opportunity right in my back yard.

  3. Thoroughly enjoy your postings Murray. Keep them coming. Somehow it helps with the northern homesickness; until I return and get back out there myself.

  4. Great pictures what a good zoom you must have. I also follow Yukon electric company listream cam about the three eaglets and parents percherd up in Whitehorse…..quite a show they also put on these past few days trying their wings out. Hope to catch them flying out of their nest. Do they tend to return to the nest once they have learned to fly ? Or do they perch elsewhere and how long do they stay with their parents. Keep the postings going, it’s always a pleasure to check up on you and travels. Glad to see Monty made it with you that time around.

  5. The picture of the projectile defacation made my day! Beautiful country. We’ll be back in Alaska in 2 weeks, so my “northern homesickness” will be cured.

  6. This is such a perfect photo-essay. Your pictures of the Bald Eagle family put us right in the nest! The final photo is magnificent. Do you know approximately how long eagles live? And the same pair do stay together, don’t they? Do you have an idea of how many families they would raise? Do this year’s young still stick around the parents for another year or, once they can fly, they are off on their own? I might be thinking of bear cubs when I think of the young staying round Mum a second year …?? Sorry for all the questions.

    Best Regards, Marie G.