Eagles Everywhere

by Skip Via
skip@westvalleynaturalists.org

Bald eagles are a fairly common sight in the valley year ’round. In the summer, you’ll find them in trees along creek beds, around ponds and marshes, and even congregating around a roadkill deer. They are opportunistic feeders, preferring fish that they either catch themselves or snatch from other animals such as ospreys or otters, but they will happily take hares, birds, snakes, gophers, frogs, or whatever else is available, including roadkill.

Mature bald eagles are easy to identify by their distinct white head and white tail feathers, large yellow beak, and broad wings when soaring. The males and females are virtually identical, the female being slightly larger. Both parents participate in feeding their chicks. (Interesting aside, while we’re on the subject. In most birds species, the males are showier and usually larger in order to attract females. In species that share parenting responsibilities, such as eagles and coots, both parents typically look alike.) Juvenile bald eagles take several years to mature into that stage, having mottled dark and light brown feathers across their entire body. As such they are sometimes mistaken for hawks. But their bills are distinctly eagle-like, as are their formidable talons.

Here is a juvenile calling out, probably to alert others (maybe parents) to his whereabouts:

Keep an eye out when you’re out and about in the valley. Eagles can be found just about anywhere.

Eight eagles, mostly juveniles, looking for feeding opportunities at the Potholes.
Juvenile eagle preening. You can see the white head feathers coming in.

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