Dateline: November 20, 1998.
Part 1: Natural History of Bald Eagles
The American Bald Eagle (Haliacetus leucocephalus) is of course the national emblem of the United
States of America. Ben Franklin had proposed the wild turkey but was
over ruled in favor of this majestic bird of prey. The life of this bird, however, has been
precarious over the past centuries, often being slaughtered in the belief that they cause undue
competition in the fishing industry.
Getting ready to feast on a salmon clutched in his talons. Click to enlarge.
Bald eagles in the lower 48 states were an endangered species until recently.
Their status has been upgraded to threatened, largely as a result of
extensive recovery efforts. While numbers are recovering, they are not out of the woods
yet, and efforts are continuing to ensure their total recovery.
Eagles disperse across the North American continent in the summer to raise their
young, but when winter comes, they gather in huge flocks, usually in small areas, to take
advantage of spawning salmon and other fish. The sight of the eagles, ten or twenty to
a tree is jaw-dropping. They look ungainly and out of balance to the huge trees that
support them and a sense of nature's beauty is overwhelming.They perch high to watch for
feeding opportunities and eagles are very opportunistic. They steal food from other
birds of prey such as the osprey, scavenge, and on occasion will actually hunt their own
Dive-bombing such as this is dramatic, but seems to be all done for fun, as they certainly don't need to fight over food. Click to enlarge.
Eagles are seldom found far from water in any season. Fish is their food of choice
but inland, before the water freezes solid for the winter, they will take ducks and small
mammals. Once the water freezes, they make their way to traditional gathering places. Common
places for eagles to gather in winter are: Haines, Alaska, Brackendale,
British Columbia; the Mississippi River Valley between Minnesota and Arkansas; and in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley.
To see and learn much more about bald eagles, check the links below.
Wherever you go, Ellie and I promise you that the sight of hundreds of Bald Eagles along a river will be etched into your memory for a lifetime - photos just don't
do this amazing sight justice!
Bald Eagle Links & Books
The Eagles of Haines
The Eagles of Brackendale
References & Further Reading:
- Three River Junction: A Story of an Alaskan Bald Eagle Preserve
by Saranne D. Burnham and Tom Antonishak (Soundprints, 1997)
- The Bald Eagle: Haunts and Habits of a Wilderness Monarch
by Jon M. Gerrard and Gary R. Bortolotti (Washington: Smithsonian, 1988)
- The American Eagle
by Tom and Pat Leesen (Beyond Words Publishing, 1995)
- Bald Eagles: Their Life and Behavior in North America
by Art Wolfe and Donald Bruning (New York: Crown, 1997)
- Valley of the Eagles (video)
All photographs are © 1998-2024 by Murray Lundberg, and are not to be copied or reproduced in any form without permission.
Arctic & Northern Animals & Birds Links