The bald eagle is only found on the North American continent, with their presents being quite prevalent on Vancouver Island. Whether they enjoy bird watching or not; most people would be impressed by this majestic bird and its habits.
Full grown these birds weigh 9 to 12 pounds and have a wing span of up to 2 to 3 meters. An impressively large dark bird with a white head and distinctive white tail, with a length between 90 to 120 centimetres, this makes them one of the largest birds in North America, with the females being the larger of the species.
Bald Eagles have a life span of up to 40 years in the wild. In most areas of the United States, after significant population declines in the 50’s and 60’s, bald eagles were listed as an endangered species in 1978. By 1995 their status was upgraded to threatened, they continue to be protected under the Endangered Species Act, the bald eagle Protection Act, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. On Vancouver Island the population of bald eagles has never been threatened and their species continues to flourish today.
Feeding Habits of a Bald Eagle:
Bald eagles feed mainly on fish, but they are also scavengers and skilled hunters, with keen eyesight that enables them to spot prey
from over a mile away, they are able to capture waterfowl in flight, salmon while they are swimming and rabbits on the run.
With a flight speed of up to 35 kilometres an hour they can dive from great heights with a speed of up to 140 kilometres per hour. Bald eagles catch their prey in their talons and carry it off, and are able to lift about 6 pounds, although they have been reported to be found literally swimming to shore with salmon trapped in their claws that weigh over 20 pounds.
Living near large bodies of open water close to marshes, the sea coasts and rivers, where there are plenty of fish to eat and tall trees for nesting and roosting.
Mating, Nesting Habits of a Bald Eagle:
Monogamous and mating for life, bald eagles will only select another mate if its companion should die. A massive platform nest of sticks and vegetation lined with moss and grasses is placed on cliff ledge or in the fork of a tree. Usually, on the highest perch that offers the best visibility. It is not uncommon for a family of eagles to have more than one nest, using the second nest as a decoy.
Nests are enlarged each year and can become quite large with some local nests reported to have reached sizes of more than 3 meters in diameter, these massive platforms can weigh several tons.
Eagles lay from 1 to 3 eggs between late May and early June every year, after 34 to 36 days of incubation, the young birds called eaglets emerge. Feeding and brooding responsibilities are performed by both adults. The young leave the nest in 10 to 12 weeks, are dark brown in colour and make a resounding and distinctive song when calling to their parents. The head and tail feathers turn predominantly white in their fourth or fifth year.
Only about 50% of eaglets hatched survive the first year. Most eagles migrate in winter, however in the Campbell River area our eagle population generally enjoys a mild climate and an abundant food source during the winter months and therefore stay in the area all year.
Bald eagles can be sedentary creatures, often remaining on the same perch for hours at a time, giving bird watchers a great opportunity for viewing and picture taking.